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!