Posted tagged ‘1967’

When giants roamed Milwaukee

April 30, 2013

The last night of April 1971 was a thrilling one for a certain 13-year-old who lived an hour north of Milwaukee.

That Friday night, my beloved Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Baltimore Bullets 118-106 to win the NBA championship. One of the Bucks’ stars was center Lew Alcindor, who had just turned 24.

The next day, Alcindor announced that he would thereafter be known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Today, my friend Kurt — also a big fan of those Bucks — tipped me to a wonderful essay written by Kareem, now 66. Posted by Esquire, “20 Things I Wish I’d Known When I was 30” is well worth your time.

No. 1 on Kareem’s list: “Be more outgoing.”

“My shyness and introversion from those days
still haunt me. … When I was off the court,
I felt uncomfortable with attention. I rarely partied
or attended celebrity bashes.”

So I wonder. Did Kareem, now writing for Esquire, ever cross paths with the Esquires during his six years in Milwaukee? Kareem was, and is, a jazz buff. But did he ever hear, and appreciate, one of the city’s top soul and R&B groups?

The Esquires, a vocal group many compare to — and mistake for — Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, had a smash single with “Get On Up” in 1967. Lew Alcindor didn’t arrive in town until two years later, when the Esquires were making their last serious run at the R&B charts with the singles “I Don’t Know” in 1969 and “Girls In The City” in 1970.

So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, materializing from the sweet blue haze of time (and smoke from the corridors of the Milwaukee Arena), is a sweet side from one of Milwaukee’s finest groups.

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“And Get Away,” “Listen To Me,” “How Was I To Know,” “Groovin’,” “Everybody’s Laughing” and “How Could It Be,” the Esquires, from “Get On Up And Get Away,” 1967. This is Side 1. It runs 14:49. This was the Esquires’ only LP. It’s available on a 1995 CD titled “Get On Up” and digitally.

This side leads off with the follow-up single to “Get On Up.” They were released in July and September 1967, both reaching the Top 10 on the R&B charts. The second cut, “Listen To Me,” was the B side to “Get On Up.” The fifth cut, “Everybody’s Laughing,” was the B side to “And Get Away.” “Groovin'” is a cover of the Young Rascals tune. Everything else on this side was written or co-written by lead singer Gilbert Moorer.

Tonight, we’re heeding the advice at No. 13 on Kareem’s list. “Do one thing every day that helps someone else.”

“This is about helping one individual you know
by name. Maybe it means calling your parents,
helping a buddy move, or lending a favorite jazz album
to Chocolate Fingers McGee.”

Consider this the digital version of the latter.

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Once again, late to the party

November 30, 2012

It’s easy to get fried at this time of year, as the holidays roar forward, and then past, like a train. So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we’re going to chill with a sublimely sweet side of ’60s soul music.

My introduction to Eddie Floyd came late. Seven years ago, Mojo magazine included a compilation of Southern soul music with its May issue. On that CD was a song called “I’ll Take Her.” Its premise, simply put in its lyrics: If you don’t want her, I’ll take her. That upbeat tune, with Floyd’s smooth voice lifted by some sweet horns and backup singers as it chugged along, hooked me.

So I’m making up for lost time. A couple of years ago, I somehow found Floyd’s debut LP, “Knock On Wood.” For whatever reason, you rarely see Eddie Floyd records in our corner of Wisconsin. Maybe, understandably, no one wants to part with them.

Listen to this, and you’ll know why.

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“Knock On Wood,” “Something You Got,” “But It’s Alright,” “I Stand Accused,” “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” and “I Don’t Want To Cry,” Eddie Floyd, from “Knock On Wood,” 1967. This is Side 1. It runs 17:32. The LP out of print but is available digitally.

Back in 1979, when Amii Stewart did “Knock On Wood,” I had no idea it was a cover of Floyd’s 1966 single, a smash he co-wrote with the great Memphis guitarist Steve Cropper, but a song originally intended for Otis Redding. Told you I was late to the party.

This side of the LP is all covers, aside from the title track. “Something You Got” came from New Orleans, done first by Chris Kenner with help from Allen Toussaint in 1961. “But It’s Alright” was a hit for J.J. Jackson in 1966. Jerry Butler co-wrote “I Stand Accused” with his brother Billy and released it as a single in 1964. The fifth cut, “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody,” was a hit for James Ray in 1962, but I came to know it via the Amazing Rhythm Aces, who covered it on their self-titled 1979 LP, which is one of my favorites. “I Don’t Want To Cry” is Chuck Jackson’s first hit from 1961.

This LP, recorded in the latter part of 1966, is Floyd backed by Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Not bad for your first solo record. At the time, Floyd was working mostly as a songwriter at Stax Records in Memphis, often for his old friend Wilson Pickett. Floyd and Pickett had sung together with the Falcons, a Detroit group, in the early ’60s. Floyd founded the group in 1955. It disbanded when Pickett went solo in 1963, and Floyd turned to songwriting. He joined Stax in 1965.

After “Knock On Wood,” all that changed.

It’s hard to tell how much Eddie Floyd, now 75, still performs, if at all. Summer before last, he mentored young people at the Stax Music Academy in Memphis. Interviews with Floyd suggest a gentleman as sweet as his music.

I approved this message

November 3, 2012

Political operatives are everywhere these days.

They’re most often on the other end of your phone, robocalling. They’re stuffing postcards into the mail, perhaps never realizing those cards usually go directly from the mail drop to the recycling bin without coming into the house. They’re down at the corner, planting campaign signs in the highway right-of-way, which is a Bozo no-no in Wisconsin.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to enjoy our notion of a soundtrack for all this intrigue.

“Mission: Impossible,” “Jim On The Move,” “Operation Charm,” The Sniper, “Rollin Hand” and “The Plot,” from Lalo Schifrin, “Music From ‘Mission: Impossible’,” 1967. This is Side 1. It runs 17:07. It’s out of print, including a 1996 CD reissue.

Starting with the full version of the familiar TV theme song, a classic, this is a wonderfully evocative, suggestive side of late ’60s jazz and pop. Recorded over three days in October 1967, it reached No. 11 on the Billboard jazz chart in 1968.

Arranged and conducted by Schifrin, it’s performed by a who’s who of great Hollywood studio musicians. Mike Melvoin has the piano solo on “Jim On The Move.” Bill Plummer (of the Cosmic Brotherhood) plays sitar on “The Sniper” (a strategy we most emphatically do not endorse). The flip side has sax solos by Bud Shank.

It’s almost too sophisticated to be a backdrop for today’s mean political climate.

Is anyone carrying out “Operation Charm” in an attempt to woo undecided voters? Didn’t think so.

Then again, even 45 years on, “The Plot” still tips you to something nasty going down.

The things you find at a head shop

December 31, 2010

It’s kind of fitting that we crank out this month’s Midnight Tracker post on a night when midnight matters so much. Also fitting that we do so on a night when it’s best to stay in and listen to records.

We’ve had a bit of a thaw in Wisconsin over the last couple of days, with temperatures near 40, light rain, fog and a fair amount of snow melt. It’s expected to end abruptly, right around midnight on New Year’s Eve, when a cold front moves through. They’re warning us that driving will be “treacherous” after that.

So if you also are staying in, we have another good side for you as The Midnight Tracker emerges from the winter fog.

Is it bad karma to buy something for yourself when your Christmas shopping isn’t done? Hope not. I went into our local head shop a couple of weeks ago, looking for cool T-shirts or posters for our son, who’s 15. I discovered they had a small bin of used vinyl. I found this.

You rarely see any Chuck Jackson records in our corner of Wisconsin. I’ve been looking ever since hearing “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near).” It was included last year on the CD set included with the Oxford American’s music issue.

I didn’t buy that record that day. Christmas shopping wasn’t done yet. When I got home, I realized I have the title cut, which is an absolute scorcher. I picked it up a couple of years ago from Derek’s Daily 45.

So, yes, I did go back and get that record about a week later. It was $2. The Christmas shopping still wasn’t quite done, but so it goes. I had to get it on the turntable.

Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown worked for Wand Records, part of the Scepter Records family, for most of the ’60s. They had some modest R&B hits as individuals, and again when paired as a duet in 1966. Their first record of duets, “Saying Something” is said to be a bit more elegant, full of love songs, than this one. I haven’t heard it.

“Hold On, We’re Coming” snaps off one great, upbeat cover after another. Recorded when Jackson and Brown were in their late 20s, it’s full of energy, full of New York R&B and soul. Dig it!

“Hold On I’m Coming,” “Something You Got,” “Shake A Tail Feather,” “C.C. Rider,” “Maybe” and “I Need You So,” Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown, from “Hold On, We’re Coming,” 1967. This is Side 1. It runs 14:59.

(The buy link is to a two-fer CD which has that first record, “Saying Something.)

Three of these cuts made it into the R&B singles charts. “Something You Got” was No. 10 and “I Need You So” was No. 22 in 1965, and the title cut was No. 20 in 1967.