Old man river (the old story)

When I was about 8 or 9 I got interested in music…after a got my first record by The Delta Rhythm Boys I was hooked on jazz, quartet singing and voices in general.

After the smooth and intricate harmonies of ‘The Delta’s’

I stumbled onto Bill Haley! Bill Haley and his Comets! I had that live album in Sweden…that had a version of “Love Letters in the Sand”….that was marvelous! For a boy raised in a very strict and legalistic home, this was ‘sin set to music’ to my father’s ear. My mom was more ‘worldy’ for a lack of a better word. She had the same ‘bug’ for music and singing as yours truly. She’d sing a lot around the house whatever she did. She loved singing, and she could harmonize….switch parts on a dime…and it came all natural, no training. She was awesome! Thank God for my mom, she’d allow me to my records on a audible volume. I had no headphones, just a recordplayer (mono) that was portable, it was like a small suitcase. I scratched a lot of records because my dad came through the door….he really hated it.

 

To make my father more accepting of the notion that I wasn’t gonna quit listening to music, I strategically bought a gospel album by Jim Reeves entitled “We Thank Thee”. I love Gentleman Jim…still do…his smooth, no frills, nothing fancy approach to singing has a soothing quality to it! My favorite song that he did was “The Nightwatch”. My mom loved it and played it even when I wasn’t home. And left it on regardless of my dad coming or going. From that point on I had more freedom to listen to music, still I respected him too much to take advantage of it. I lowered the volume of music, as soon as he walked in, even if he didn’t ask.

Anyway back to my musical babysteps. I bought a compilation album on a budget label that had all kind of different artists on it. People like Owen Bradley, The Kalin Twins, Johnny Burnette and Buddy Holly. The latter I loved…one of the few R&R poets! “It’s too late, she is gone” I loved that tune!

I’ve always been a ballad guy, don’t get me wrong, I love uptempo too…but I always sit up when a slow song comes on!

 

Gene Vincent is known for his harddriving rockabilly sound, fast stuff like ‘Catman’. But if you never heard the dragging blues song “Blues Stay Away From Me”  you haven’t been livin’. Gene also did a great rendition of ‘Unchained Melody’ haunting! Gene Vincent! That cat had it going…..love Gene!

My first Elvis record was “Elvis Golden Gospel Songs” a compilation album. The first time I heard “He Touched Me”, was also the first time I heard the Imperials. Or as Elvis used to introduce them on stage ‘the Mighty Imperials’.

Elvis got me into Southern Gospel….into the Quartets!

My first Imperials album….it was 1981 by then, and the group had some personnel changes since their Elvis days, info I didn’t have at the time.

Anyway I rushed to my room, got the record out, and slapped it onto the player…. I slammed it on that mother. Those few seconds of scratchy silence before the first song comes on…the anticipation…then suddenly Disco came pounding through the speakers! “Closer Than Ever” was the song…I was shocked! Didn’t like it one bit! Brother! Those guys are total sell outs I thought! Abandoning real quartet singing, why?! I was disappointed at first, but the slow songs I loved. “One More Song For You”, Jim Murray singing “All My Life” so my initial narrow-mindedness caved in quickly…and I liked it! I loved it! I own every record by the Imperials from 1964 to 1984!

One of the best things to ever come out of gospel music was and is Russ Taff! Loved Russ with the Imperials loved that tune “Whenever Is Speak His Name” 

I love Russ voice and spirit…a real good guy! Russ influenced me greatly…not that it helped much.

Another guy that influenced my approach to singing was a guy named Tony Hadley! He sang with Spandau Ballet…a british band from the eighties. 

Loved Tony’s tone and diction, and those long coats…man I dressed like that in the eighties. That song makes me long for the good old days….classic tune!

 

Another group I really digged in the eighties were The Housemartins…who did a raw, sloppy cappella stuff..and gospel tinged pop! It Their lead singer had a distinct voice…melancholic, weird slighty depressing music, but I loved them anyway. Listen how he sings “Lean On Me” pretty darn good if you ask me….memorable at the least!

As the years rolled on…I  like many ‘new’ artists/music…man I do…but mainly all current hip bands playing new music with that good old feeling! The feeling Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Sam Cooke, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Larry Norman and Kenny Drew give me!

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Of Barbarella, Quartets, Madness and Sir Cliff.

When I was 10 or 12..I loved music that was frowned upon by my peers. While they listened to bands like Duran Duran, I listened to The Delta Rhythm Boys, when they danced to the beat of The Simple Minds, I stood bewildered on the edge of the dance floor feeling superior to the musical simple minds in front of me. Who were frantically displaying how rhythm should not be displayed in public. Duran Duran…what kind of name is that?! What does it mean? Well I’ll fill you in on that later. When one of my classmates asked me what kind of music I listened to, I said…‘well….Duran Duran, Simple Minds,…you know?! Anybody who knew me back then, knew that I was pretty opinionated and outspoken! Well spoken some considered me as eloquent. Which says more about the IQ of my peers, than my linguistic artistry! Outspoken..my foot! Not on this topic I wasn’t!

I was ashamed of my musical taste back then, or maybe ashamed is not the word. But I just didn’t have the heart to tell them that Kenny Drew was a great jazz pianist. Seemed pretty pointless to explain to them who Lee Gaines was. Or talk about Leland Sklar’s genius bass playing, or how funky Steve Gadd’s grooves were. All the stuff they listened to, was overly synthesized and drum programmed! Of course there was the ironic possibility that all of the others were hiding their own musical taste aswell. Then again, sales figures of bands like Duran Duran went through the roof, so that’s pretty good evidence to proof the contrary.

Man I can see myself sitting up in my old room once again, listening to ‘Take The Chains From My Heart’ as sung by Ray Charles. Or scaring the wits out of an old out of tune guitar that I really didn’t play. I violated the darn thing! Playing along with Charlie Rich singing “I Do My Swinging at Home‘. Charlie Rich…that guy was awesome! The Silver Fox started out on Sun records as a Elvis on steroids. But when he was a few years into his career he developed into one of the most underrated artists ever! No one can touch Charlie when he sings a song like ‘Set Me Free‘. Charlie’s piano playing was a mix of gospel, jazz and country, he played it very well. There were a couple of groups I liked when I was a teen. I liked Spandau Ballet, that lead singer Mr.Tony Hadley had a great voice. Liked a group named ‘Madness‘ who had a hit with the title ‘Nightboat to Caïro’. I was also crazy about Billy Ocean’s voice, that sounded somewhat like Larnelle Harris’s voice. So? you guys ask, why didn’t you answer naming those contemporary artists while questioned by a moron? Well all those names were the ‘uncool’ performers of that time. We found common ground though, on one singer who we all thought was awful. His name Rick ‘the prick‘ Astley….he sang the horrible ‘Never Gonna Give You Up‘. That line came by so much, that you prayed ‘ I kinda wish he gave up’.

I promised to explain the name Duran Duran..here’s what I found on http://www.rateyourmusic.com;

‘Inspired by one of their favourite Birmingham clubs, Barbarella’s, the band took their name from the evil character “Dr. Durand Durand”, played by Milo O’Shea in Roger Vadim’s 1968 sexy science-fiction cult film Barbarella’.

Mmmh Jane Fonda yummy…we all agreed on miss Fonda too, but that’s another tune. You know irony is the hygiene of the mind Oscar Wilde said. Isn’t it ironic that today I actually like Duran Duran, and even the Simple Minds. I still hate Rick though…glad the record company finally gave up on him. One artist I still find hard to admit that I like is Sir Cliff Richard…..yes I know, I know, that’s indeed kind of sad…but hearing Cliff sing ‘True love ways’ with the London Philharmonic is just fabulous.

I loved Elvis Presley too..man did I ever! Loved Bill Haley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee and Carl Perkins too. But Elvis was the man! Elvis turned me on to gospel quartets! I loved those background voices better than Elvis. Ate up all ooohs and aaahhs by The Imperials. Every ’56 ending by J.D! The gospel albums of Elvis….wow! The ‘He Touched Me’ album is the best. Never heard a better rendition of the Ralph Carmichael song ‘Reach Out to Jesus’.

I started to buy gospel quartet music where ever I was. Still kept listening to soul, jazz, country, blues, bluegrass and classical, but quartets are still my main thing. You name it and I listened to it, Cathedrals, Statesmen, Couriers, Singing Americans, Weatherfords,Rebels, Melody Masters, Swanee River Boys, Vanguards, Downings, Oak Ridge, Imperials, Blackwoods, Stamps, and many more.

Thank God for Gaither…he put me on to a lot of these groups. And thank Al Gore for the internet! All the info on the net is awesome! I love the details, credits, who played on what album? Who sang the baritone in what year in a certain quartet. Who replaced who on a part, what is counterpoint singing? part swapping? or coming in on the fly! I love the history and the heritage. I love the tight-knit gospel singing community, or the thought of it. Loved how Glen loved George! How J.D. loved his wife. How Gerald Wolfe sang ‘Magnify Him‘, and how Michael English broke into ‘He’s Still Working On Me’. How Vestal Goodman practically hijacked a mic on an early Gaither video to sing;

‘A country where no twilight shadows deepen
Unending day where night will never be
A city where no storm clouds ever gather
This is just what Heaven means to me’.

I love the music that I love, and I know for a fact that the people who I met in real life and who are artists themselves, are genuine, normal, cool, and just like us all. If someone asks me today what music that I like, I say ‘Gospel’ and they immediately will break into ‘Oh Happy Day‘.,,and then walk off laughing…shoutin’ ‘hallelujah‘ while they distance themselves from me. I answer that with a loud ‘amen‘. As I said, or implied before, don’t talk about perfect pitch to the tone-deaf! They won’t hear you!

Auke