Archive for January 2010

Seen in the charts

January 31, 2010

Over at our home blog — AM, Then FM — we’ve started a series looking back at songs I heard on my AM-FM radio during the ’70s. We’re starting out with 1970, so let’s stay there.

Everyone knows R.B. Greaves hit it big with “Take A Letter Maria,” which reached No. 2 in 1969. But do you remember the follow-up single, which was in the charts at this time of year in 1970?

You’ll hear it on tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker, which resurfaces at the end of every month. It emerges from the haze of time, reviving an old late-night FM radio show on which one side of a new or classic album would be played.

That follow-up single is a cover, but it isn’t “Cupid,” the fourth cut on Side 1. “Cupid” is a little bit of family business on which Greaves covers a tune written and done first by his uncle, Sam Cooke.

No, that follow-up single was “Always Something There To Remind Me,” the oft-covered Hal David-Burt Bacharach song.

“Always Something There To Remind Me,” Don’t Play That Song,” “Take A Letter Maria,” “Cupid” and “This Is Soul,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1970. This is Side 1. It runs 15:14.

That last cut, “This Is Soul,” has a nice, upbeat slice of Muscle Shoals R&B. It, like “Take A Letter Maria,” was written by Greaves. Why wasn’t that put out as a single?

There are lots of little mysteries when it comes to R.B. Greaves.

Greaves was born in Guyana, the son of an Air Force captain. He grew up on three Indian reservations and is half-Seminole. The liner notes say he was raised “on a ranch adjacent to the Seminole Indian Reservation at Hot Springs, Sonoma.” So … could that mean northern California, where there are Calusa-Seminole Indians?

Greaves moved to England when he was 19, There, the story goes, he got into music, having some modest success as Sonny Childe with a group called the TNTs.

OK, then … how did he get from there to cutting an album on Atco Records under his real name in his mid-20s, and doing so with an A-list production set-up — recording at Muscle Shoals in Alabama and at the Atlantic studios in New York with Ahmet Ertegun producing the album, Muscle Shoals fixture Marlin Greene co-producing four cuts and doubling as the recording engineer and Arif Mardin doing the string arrangements?  No wonder there were two Top 30 hits on that album.

The trail dries up pretty quickly and ends in 1977 with Greaves recording for Bareback Records. I’ve seen at least one other R.B. Greaves LP, but couldn’t tell you its name or label.

If R.B. Greaves is still with us, he’s 65.

Another little mystery.