Aaaand we”re back. Excuse the lull, folks, but we”re dusting off the cobwebs and ready for more. Now, let”s talk Austin – home to us here at I”m Shakin”, though rarely covered as far as independently-produced 45s. Relatively speaking, Austin had a small music scene – recording/production wise – up until the early to mid “70s, considerably late in the game for independent record production in general. Undoubtedly, and as is often the case of smaller communities, there were some few musicians and producers actively making records in the area before designated studios were readily available in Central Texas.

James Polk, prior to forming his legendary Twink label some few months later in “69 (named after his friend, “Twink”, proprietor of East Austin”s then-popular Hide-a-Way Lounge) recorded this single for father and son team Bill & Rim Josey and their Sonobeat Records, another local imprint of storied legacy. With the plug side Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness featuring the powerful, soulful vocals of Austin diva Yvonne Joseph, it seemed the Joseys were intent on marketing the vocal side of the record, given its distinct pop sensibility and radio friendliness. Though both sides are great in their own right, I personally prefer the flip – the oft-neglected B-side – which in this case is an extraordinary instrumental jazz-funk number. Polk delivers a knockout with his masterful hammond organ, The Brothers following closely at the helm. As generally defines the “60s “Polk Sound”, the staggered drums are mixed upfront and center, with mellow horn play and a bouncy bass line keeping rhythm at a comfortable mid-tempo stroll. As a trained jazz maestro, Polk indiscriminately borrows from r&b, soul, and funk while maintaining jazz at the forefront, weaving in and out of time signature – resulting in this cerebral, Austin-born slice of jazz-funk. Recorded at the Joseys” homemade recording studio in Northwest Austin, The Robot is the first and only record Polk would issue for Sonobeat before his next recordings on Twink. Following his brief foray as producer in Austin, Polk enjoyed a decade-long stint in the early 70s as bandleader for the Ray Charles Orchestra, earning a few Grammy nominations along the way. Polk is the story and key to Austin jazz music, inspiring legions of local musicians and entrepreneurs in his example, earning his legacy not only as a performer but as a long time music professor at Austin”s Huston-Tillotson University in his latter years. We”re happy to finally give him due credit, it”s been long overdue.

LISTEN: James Polk and The Brothers – The Robot

Photobucket

impact scan
In this post I would like to step away from the 60s Fuzz vibe for a moment and introduce you to Texas blues man Johnny Copeland. Born March 27, 1937 in Haynesville, Louisiana, Copeland and his family moved to Houston as a child where they called the Third Ward home. It was in this particular part of the Lone Star state where Johnny was introduced to Texas blues men Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and of course T-Bone Walker.

While in Houston, Copeland made the acquaintance of a local Houston musician Joe “Guitar” Hughes. This friendship would go on to become the basis of what would start Copeland’s recording career. The Dukes Of Rhythm became their first group together. Initially started as strictly a vocal group, the duo would quickly pick up instruments to keep up with the music that was coming from in and around Houston. The Dukes Of Rhythm became the house band for Houston’s leading blues club, Shady’s Playhouse, subsequently where Copeland first saw T. Bone Walker perform.

impact scan
Johnny Copeland began to record as a solo artist in 1958 with a blues pianist named Teddy Reynolds. His first single garnered little attention, but was picked up on the major record label Mercury. After the failure of this first single Copeland began to record for a myriad of Texas labels including All Boy, Paradise, Wet Soul, Jet Stream, Brown Sugar, Boogaloo and Golden Eagle.

impact scan
In 1963 Copeland would record his largest selling single “Down On Bended Knees/Just One More Time”. Down On Bended Knees was recorded at Gold Star Studios and has been on many blues compilations and is considered one of the molding pieces that helped shape the unmistakeable Texas blues sound.

impact scan
I personally enjoy the much more R & B influenced flip side of this single called “Just One More Time.” Jannie Williams recorded a female answer to both sides of this single also for Golden Eagle the same year “I’ve Been True/Get Up Off Your Knees” was released. Both singles were written by Copeland and contain the exact same instrumentation with differing titles and of course the female lyrical retort. This might have been a ploy by Golden Eagle to open up this single to both male and female audiences. Jannie also recorded on the Back Beat label as Jeanette Williams, primarily recording soul tunes.

kenny and the kasuals
Charlie Booth was a Houston promoter and former T.V. repairman who helped Roy Head get his start by introducing him to Huey Meaux, who recorded Head’s biggest hit “Treat Her Right.” Booth owned the Golden Eagle label and also brought Head to Don Robey’s (Back Beat Records owner) attention. Booth got his start in the music industry as a recording artist with his single “Fishin’ Fits,” for the Laurie label in the early 60’s. Booth’s first hit on his Golden Eagle label was Copeland’s “Down On Bended Knee.” Booth recorded many other Golden Eagle singles in Gold Star Studios where he edited and produced all the material himself.

kenny and the kasuals
In 1964 Copeland recorded “Mama Told Me/Your Game Is Working,” which contains Copeland’s signature blues tone on “Mama Told Me.” Copeland then changes gears to a thick slow R & B sound on “Your Game is Working,” which in my opinion is when he is at his best. That sound can be attributed to Copeland’s ability to unleash the stormy rhythm & blues influences of T. Bone Walker.

kenny and the kasuals
Blues and R & B were not all Copeland was capable of. The versatility of Copeland is perfectly represented when up-beat soul meets hair raising slow ballad with his single “Danger Zone/Slow Walk You Down.” Danger Zone is a Percy Mayfield cover that can raise any one to their feet. Slow Walk You Down is a Heuy Meaux production and was written by Joe Hughes, Copeland’s original band mate.

This single is very rare and I have been unable to find an exact recording date, however I would have to guess that it was laid down in or around 1973 or 1974. Both sides of these Boogaloo Label release are underrated and deserve recognition, for they represent Copeland’s adaptability to the seventies while still holding strong to his roots as the ‘Texas Twister.’

kenny and the kasuals
LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – Just One More Time

LISTEN: Jannie Willams- I’ve Been True

LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – You’re Game Is Working

LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – Slow Walk You Down

LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – Danger Zone

LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – I’ll Be Around
23 Feb 2011, Comments (2)

Alvin Hemphill-The Jug Pt. 1 (Big C, 196?)

Author: alex larotta


Hailing from Dallas, TX, Alvin Hemphill and his 7″ single, The Jug, might be some of the best in North Texas” soul-jazz output. With its tall, walking bass, splashy drums, and funky Hammond organ groove, Alvin released this single on the local Big C label (likely his own custom imprint) and vanished into relative obscurity. As far as I know, this is his only known release, but a slots mighty fine one at that. Though the Gulf Region has a considerable amount of diverse, cross-cultural sounds, independently produced soul-jazz is considerably unique to Texas” Great Plains (at the very least, of lesser quantity). With little information to go on, I”ll leave you now with Alvin”s delectable organ swinger.

LISTEN: Alvin Hemphill-The Jug

impact scan
As far as Texas recording artists stack up, Roy Head is right at the top famed for his hit “Treat Her Right,” along with his wild dance moves and microphone tricks during live performances. Born January 9th 1943 in Three Rivers, Texas, Head started his recording career with a group from San Marcos Texas, The Traits. Recording on the TNT and Renner labels they had a slew of hits ranging from rockabilly, R & B to blue eyed soul. The group was formed by Tommy Bolton along with Head. The group consisted of Roy Head on vocals, Tommy Bolton on rhythm guitar, Gerry Gibson on drums, Dan Buie on piano, Clyde Causey on lead guitar and Bill Pennington on bass. Just before their first recordings Causey joined the military and was replaced by George Frazer on lead.
impact scan
The group first recorded in the late 50’s for the Tanner N Texas Recording Company (TNT) owned by Bob Tanner out of San Antonio. In 1961 the group added two saxophone players David McCumber and Danny Gomez to their lineup and started recording for Renner Records owned by Jessie Schneider also out of San Antonio. One single that stands out is the cover of Ray Sharpe’s “Linda Lu.” This cover is a bit more of a mover than the original and adds more of an almost chicano soul tone to its interpretation with honking horns from top to bottom. This tune was taped and mastered at Jeff Smith’s Texas Sound Studio in San Antonio in 1962.

impact scan
In late 1963 the group met Charlie Booth at a gig in East Bernard. This meeting is what pushed The Traits to create the blue-eyed soul sound, which Head is known for so well. Booth a T.V. repairman turned Houston music promoter introduced the group to Huey Meaux. In early 1964 the Traits signed with Meaux who then took the group to Gold Star Studios in Houston, Texas. At this first recording session “Teenage Letter/Pain,” were laid down, however Booth and Meaux both knew there was more to offer from this group from San Marcos. Booth, showed a lot of interest in the band’s original tune “Talking ‘bout a Cow,” and suggested cleaning up the lyrics, which became “Treat Her Right,” and was recorded at the groups second trip to the Gold Star Studios. After many personnel changes the group now recorded as Roy Head and the Traits. One big change would come by way of a new bass player, Gene Kurtz who co-wrote “Treat Her Right.” Head was known for his wild dancing compared to James Brown’s shuffle and Elvis’s gyrations. Treat Her Right was released on Don Robey’s Back Beat label where it reached number two on the charts behind the Beatles “Yesterday.”

impact scan
In 1966 Roy Head, David “Hawk” Koon, Gene Kurtz and Gerry Gibson under the recording name The Roy Head Trio recorded what I consider to be Head’s masterpiece “You’re Almost Tuff/Tush Hog”. This blazing recording was issued on Back Beat and featured Head’s vocals so far from his blue eyed soul sound that most listeners would reconsider if this were in fact Head on lead vocals. Head was in fact at the microphone and Gibson on drums, Kurtz on bass and Koon on lead guitar. This fuzz stomper was written by Gene Kurtz and happens to be my favorite recording Head was ever involved with; at times this single has a sound leaning towards the motorcycle movies of the mid sixties maybe giving reason for the title “Tush Hog”.

kenny and the kasuals
Last year I was able to catch Roy Head play at the Continental Club here in Austin. He shared the bill with Barbara Lynn and Archie Bell. Head didn’t play “You’re Almost Tuff” of course, but he did play “Treat Her Right”. He still has the dance moves and mic tricks up his sleeve.

kenny and the kasuals
LISTEN: The Traits – Linda Lou

LISTEN: Roy Head – You’re Almost Tuff
Page 1 of 20123451020...Last »