Sunday, March 11, 2007



Only the most gritty of soul singers would qualify to be described as just ‘too darn soulful’. Morris Chestnut, the guy who cut the song of this name, only ever recorded a small number of tracks as a solo singer. However, he has enjoyed an extended career in the music business. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he started out singing in school. He then went into the Services, being posted to Hawaii with the Air Force. After his discharge, he ended up in Los Angeles where he met up with members of doo-wop group, the Vows. His cousin Ralph was a member of the group that had a record released on Markay in 1961, this being produced by George Motola. Via the Vows, Morris got to know Motola, who impressed, signed Morris to his L&M label. Motola cut him (using the Vows on backing vocals) on a song that Morris had written himself, “I Need Somebody” and this was released under the name of James Washington Lee. Musical styles were moving on though and the line-up of the Vows was revised, Morris became a member himself and the group hooked up with Jobete Music’s LA office team. They cut some demos of songs the team had written and these were forwarded onto Detroit to be considered by Motown’s hit acts as future recording material. If these songs were rejected, the LA team had a deal with Motown that allowed them to cut them locally and release them on a LA based label. This arrangement resulted in a Vows 45 being issued in 1964 on the Tamara label. Using the revised name of the Vowels, Morris also fronted an outfit that had a couple of singles released on the Le Bam label.
Motown hadn’t given up all interest in the Vows though and in 1965 they were signed to a deal, cut some tracks and enjoyed a 45 release on the VIP label, “Tell Me” (# 25016 -- May 1965). Promotion of this single was only half-hearted and it sank without a trace. Unfortunately, despite further tracks from the group being submitted, this was to prove to be their only Motown release and so the group moved on. Morris had already teamed up with Roy Haggins, David & Robert Jones to form the Sound Masters. Herman C Allen signed the group to Julet Records and the 45 “Lonely, Lonely” (Julet # 102) was released. Morris’ stay with the group was to be short lived however. Next he teamed up with Jones, Bledsoe & Smith to form the Attractions. The group secured a contract with Bell Records, their first release being “Destination You” (# 659) in January 1967 (also issued on Renfro). Two further 45’s followed later that year, “That Girl Is Mine” (# 674) in June and “Why Shouldn’t A Man Cry” (# 690) in September. Morris must have been extremely busy that year as around April his NS anthem “Too Darn Soulful” was released on Amy (# 981), another of Bell Record’s family of labels. None of these records enjoyed any great measure of commercial success and no more of the group’s releases were to escape on Bell. By 1971, under the revised name of the Hollywood Attractions, they had a last release on the Sugar Shack label.
It would be a while before Morris got to enjoy his next record release. This occurred in 1975, after he had teamed up with ex members of the Marvellos (Loma, WB & Modern) to form Street Corner Symphony. This new group were signed to a deal with Bang Records and working with producers Michael Zager & Jerry Love they cut a number of tracks. The label released 2 singles and the album ‘Harmony Grits’ in 1975/76 and these created enough interest in music circles to secure the group a deal with a major label, ABC Records. ABC sent the group back into the studio late in 1976 and early in 1977 this resulted in the release of their album ‘Little Funk Machine’ (ABC # AB-974). In April 1977, the album was followed by the 45 “Funk Machine”. These recordings were to prove to be Morris’ last. However by this time, UK soul fans had discovered his old solo recording, “Too Darn Soulful”. This had become a top sound due to initial plays at Blackpool Mecca and as a result the single had been bootlegged. To rectify this situation, John Anderson licensed the track and issued it on his Grapevine label in 1976 (# GRP128).
Back in LA, Morris remained blissfully unaware of the popularity of his old cut here in the UK and with the passage of time; he had moved on to lead a gospel outfit. At times this group even included old Vows member Helen Simpson amongst its number. Just over a year ago, Morris was told about the popularity of his old records. He therefore now knows that cuts such as “Too Darn Soulful”, the Vows “Tell Him”, along with the Sound-Masters “Lonely, Lonely” plus the Attractions “Destination You”, “That Girl Is Mine” & “Why Shouldn’t a Man Cry” are highly prized collectors items. Indeed, ten of his old recordings are currently available on CD; his solo outings “Too Darn Soulful” & “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” plus 2 cuts from the Vows (“Tell Me”, “Show Girl”) & the Sound-Masters (“Lonely, Lonely”, “I Want You to Be My Baby”) with 4 in all from the Attractions (“Destination You”, “Why Shouldn’t A Man Cry”, “Find Me”, “New Girl In the Neighborhood”). The continued popularity of his old recordings has finally resulted in Morris being booked to come over here to perform for his many UK fans.
Morris will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March 2007) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).



“Something New To Do”, “Once I’ve Been There”, “How Can I Go On Without You’, “I’m So Happy’, “Forever And a Day”, “Home Is Where The Heart Is”, “Startin All Over Again”, I Don’t Do This (To Every Girl I Meet)”, “Hitch-hike to Heartbreak Road” and “Free For All”; fantastic songs recorded by great soul singers. All have one thing in common, they were written by Phillip Mitchell. His song writing abilities however have somewhat overshadowed his own efforts on record, a great pity as Phillip is also a highly talented singer.

Born in 1944 in Louisville, Kentucky, Phillip started singing at an early age. He learnt to play the trumpet, guitar & piano and by the age of 8 was already attempting to write songs. From singing in school and on street corners, he soon progressed to cutting singles with both the Checkmates & the Premiers. In 1963, the Checkmates won a Louisville talent contest, their prize of a recording session for Correc-tone Records unfortunately never materialised. Disillusioned, Phillip teamed up with Alvin Cash & the Crawlers but his new start was brought to an abrupt end when he was called up for a short stay in the military.

Next he joined a touring musical revue and eventually ended up in the recording hot bed of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Here he introduced himself to Fame Studio’s Rick Hall who cut him on the Dan Penn / Spooner Oldham song “Keep On Talking”. Although recorded in 1966, it would be 2 years before this outing was released on Smash. In the meantime, Phillip had traveled to LA, but Muscle Shoals soon beckoned him back. On his travels, Phillip had amassed a bag full of select songs and this helped him secure a contract with Muscle Shoals Sound studio (started by the Fame musicians). It wasn’t long before Barry Becket & Roger Hawkins decided to cut him on his song “Free For All”. This was leased to Shout Records who later that year (1969) also issued his “I’m Gonna Build California All Over the World”. However Shout was slipping towards oblivion following the death of its supremo, Bert Berns, and neither single managed to make any real impact.

Phillip then penned “Starting All Over Again” for Sam & Dave but Atlantic’s A&R guys passed on it. In 1972, Mel & Tim were recording at MSS so “Starting All Over Again” was dusted off. Their version, when released on a Stax 45 entered the US soul chart in July 72, climbing to peak in the Top 5. Phillip’s own recording career had become moribund, but the success of his song resulted in Hi Records signing him. 3 singles followed, but with Hi putting all their efforts behind Al Green, Phillip’s releases were lost in the mix. He did however get to cut Beau Williams (Bo Bo Mr. Soul) for Hi on his impressive song “Hitch-hike to Heartbreak Road”. Meanwhile back at MSS, both Bobby Sheen & Bobby Womack recorded song’s penned by Phillip (in 1972 & 1973 respectively). Sheen cut “Something New To Do” with Womack including “If You Can’t Give Her Love” on his ‘Facts of Life’ album (Mary Wells also cut this). Mel & Tim’s second Stax album was released in 1974, this including “Forever And a Day”, yet another outstanding song Phillip had written,

Phillip himself signed with Event Records and the 45 “There’s Another In My Life” became his first ever chart entry in March 1975. Bobby Womack cut Phillip’s sublime song “Home Is Where the Heart Is” (Columbia) at MSS & this became a hit late in 1976. Meanwhile, Phillip had been recruited by drummer Norman Connors to handle lead vocal duties with his band. This association resulted in Phillip singing lead on the Top 20 hit “Once I’ve Been There”. At about the same time, Atlantic Records teamed Ben E King with the Average White Band for a joint project and they took Phillip’s song “A Star in the Ghetto” into the Top 30 in October 77. So Phillip, again without a recording deal, was offered a contract with Atlantic. Sent to record an entire album for the first time in his career, Phillip produced ‘Make It Good’ in ABC’s LA studio. The album (featuring all his own songs) escaped in March 78. The first single taken from it, “One on One”, charted in June. A second 45, the classy “You’re All I’ve Got in the World”, followed later in the year but didn’t sell as well.

For his next album, Phillip headed back to his spiritual home, Muscle Shoals Sound studio. ‘Top of the Line’ (June 79) again featured his own compositions with both of the resulting singles enjoying commercial success. Aided by the release of 12” remixes, “Let’s Get Wet” made the charts even before the album had hit the shelves. “If it Ain’t Love, I’ll Go Away” followed this into the national charts in August (the magnificent “I’m So Happy” featuring as its B side). Disco then took over, so Phillip let his songwriting royalty’s takeover paying the bills. Ichiban Records eventually coaxed him back and “You’re Gonna Come Back to Love” (from his ‘Devastation’ album) returned Philip to the charts. Surprisingly it would be 1991 before a follow-up album (‘Loner’) would be issued.

Interest in his back catalogue however just grew with a number of his songs gaining anthem status. Their standing here resulted in Phillip making his first visit to the UK to perform live. Further trips ensured interest in his past work didn’t wane and this encouraged Grapevine Records to raid the Muscle Shoals Sound studio tape vaults for his un-issued cuts. The 2 CDs they have released (‘In the Beginning’ & ‘Pick Hit of the Week)’ have included such classics as “Home Is Where The Heart Is”, “How Can I Go On Without You”, “Trippin On Your Love” & “I Don’t Do This (to Every Girl I Meet). So this time, when Phillip sings for his British fans, he will finally be able to claim full ownership of the superb songs he will be performing.
Phillip will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).



What kind of lady is Dee Dee Sharp? Well obviously she‘s talented but she’s also educated, socially aware, charitable & passionate. On top of all that, she’s one hell of a singer. Born Dione LaRue in Philadelphia in 1945, she began singing in her grandfather’s church. She learnt to play the piano and to read music at an early age. This combination of skills helped secure her first recording studio work whilst still only 13 years old. Four years on and she was ready to take on lead singer duties herself. Signed to a contract with Cameo Parkway, she initially duetted with Chubby Checker on “Slow Twisting”. This Parkway label 45 gave her a first chart entry when on 24th March 1962 this entered the national R & B Top 100. The cut would stay on the charts for 3 months and rise to make the top 3 on both the US R & B and pop charts. In fact, the duet would have gone even higher had it not been for a song titled “Mashed Potato Time” from Dee Dee herself. This solo outing (a Cameo label release) had entered the charts just 7 days after “Slow Twisting”, which it overtook on its climb to reach the No.1 spot in late April.

Further hits followed in quick succession; “Gravy, For My Mashed Potatoes” (June 62), “Ride” (December 62), “Do The Bird” (March 63), “Where Did I Go Wrong” (February 64) & “Wilyam, Wilyam” (also February 64). Still in her teens, she was now touring all over the US and Europe on packages that also featured many of the times top hit acts. Dee Dee’s commercial success resulted in her also enjoying album releases and for one of these she cut a great version of Chuck Jackson’s “Any Day Now”. Being based in Philadelphia also helped get Dee Dee some national TV exposure. The city was the home of the top US TV pop show, American Bandstand, and she appeared on the show twice in both 1962 & 1963. In January 1966, “I Really Love You” (b/w “Standing In The Need of Love”) became her last hit single on Parkway, however she had continued to release great sides on the label during the intervening period. One of the best of these, her 1964 outing “Deep Dark Secret”, has recently gone on to garner a strong following.

By 1966, Cameo Parkway was no longer the powerhouse outfit it had been 4 years earlier, so Dee Dee moved on. She was signed to Atco where her first outing was the classy Jimmy Bishop / Kenny Gamble penned song “My Best Friends Man” issued late in the year. A further Atco single escaped in 1967 but by that time Atlantic had decided to cut her down south. So she was sent to work with Chips Moman in his Memphis studio. Her first single release in 1968 however was another duet, teamed with Ben E King, they re-worked Doris Troy’s “What’cha Gonna Do About It”. This was followed by 45’s featuring her Memphis recordings; “A Woman Will Do Wrong” with “Help Me Find My Groove” becoming her 3rd single release that year. Unfortunately, even though her sterling vocal efforts on these songs helped produce cuts dripping in emotional intensity, they sank without trace. None of her five outings on Atco had enjoyed any real success and as a result both parties lost interest.

Luckily, Dee Dee still had Kenny Gamble in her corner (they had married in 1967). So he took her straight back into the studio where they cut some Gamble / Huff songs and a 45 was released on his Gamble label. Even though “What Kind of Lady” is up tempo Philly soul at its very best, it failed to return her to the charts (it was good enough however to gain a UK release on the Action label). Other duties then took precedence in her life and it would be 1970 before she gained her 2nd Gamble release. Gamble & Huff did a deal with CBS that resulted in their Philadelphia International imprint coming into being in 1981. One of the labels early releases featured Dee Dee on yet another duet, this time she was teamed with Bunny Sigler on “We Got a Good Thing Going On”. The likes of Billy Paul, the O’Jays and Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, all signed to the new label, were soon enjoying massive hits, so Dee Dee again took a backroom job ((running Huga Management).

She returned at the start of 1976 when her album ‘Happy Bout the Whole Thing’ was released on Philadelphia International, with the up tempo title track also escaping on a T.S.O.P. label 45. A cover of the pop hit “I’m Not In Love”, finally returned her to the US soul charts following a 10 year break. She was back on the singles charts again (reaching # 4) in the summer of 1977, this time as a member of the Philadelphia All Stars on their release “Lets Clean Up the Ghetto”. Her 2nd solo PIR album, “What Color is Love” was also issued that year & tracks were again lifted from this to form singles. Another break followed before her ‘Dee Dee’ album came out. “I Love You Anyway” (b/w “Easy Money”) was taken from this album and issued on a single and in March 81 this became her last soul chart entry. Later that year, “Breaking & Entering”, became her final single and this was so popular in clubs that it topped the US dance chart.

Although she hasn’t recorded for a number of years (her last effort being “What a Way to Love” in 1984), she has continued to perform live. Indeed in July 2003 she starred (along with Chuck Jackson & Smokey Robinson) in a big concert held at the Telluride Conference Centre, Colorado. So just what kind of lady is Dee Dee Sharp – she’s the special kind.
Dee Dee will be one of the live acts appearing at next weekends (16/17/18 March) Prestatyn Soul Weekender to be held in Nth Wales (UK).

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