Beach Buzz February 13

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Smokin' Top 45!

 A look at the January 2013 Smokin' Top 45 indicates a continued strong presence of songs from artists that are considered part of the Southern Soul genre. The combination of Donnie Ray (3 tunes), Ms. Jody (2 tunes), LJ Echols and Johnnie Taylor represent 15% of the overall chart. Country music, with Little Big Town, Zac Brown Band, Josh Turner and Billy Currington make up another 9%. Traditional Beach artists, however, are certainly dominant (as they should be), representing a healthy 58% of the total. The remaining 18% comes from a variety of the current R&B, Blues and Pop markets. An interesting cross section that is an ongoing indicator of the broad diversity in what gets played in the world of Beach music.


One individual that we consider to be a Beach artist since he first came South from the Big Apple several years ago is Angel Rissoff. He has maintained a strong relationship with the Beach music world ever since his 2005 Angel Where Have You Been album took this market by storm. Angel has continued to roll out hit after hit over the last seven years while appearing at live venues in the region as much as his schedule has allowed.

He was actually involved in songs that became Beach hits earlier in his career while an integral part of Little Isidore & The Inquisitors as well as being Little Leopold. He also spent several years as a member of Kenny Vance & The Planotones.

Angel's latest album release, Nu Soul Stories is the third edition of what has become a trilogy, following up his 2006's Nu Soul Explosion and 2008's Nu Soul Stew. His deep, soulful resonating voice has never been better on the latest, thirteen tracks of hard driving R&B with a bluesy mix that is pure entertainment. One outstanding advance track that got quite a bit attention early on was I Thought I Knew Her, although it has not as yet, in my opinion, gotten the full chart recognition it deserves. The rollicking 29 Ways and smooth grooves on Fine Wine have both gotten significant play rotation. Angel turns out strong renditions of Open The Door To Your Heart (which has also seen some chart action) and  You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling (featuring Darlene Love). Two of the legendary Rascals, Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish, come on board with Angel to re-create the magic of one of their originals, You Better Run. Every Man is a definite lights down low belly rubber while Shag Time, written just for our genre, has also started to see some radio and club play. Angel continues to demonstrate the ability on this album to blend the Soul/R&B sounds of the '60's and '70's with what works in today's market. I for one am certainly glad that he has chosen to stay very involved in the world of Beach music!



In last month's Beach Buzz column, I mentioned in the bands section about the uniqueness of The Rick Strickland Band. They are certainly that and then some – there have been very few bands in the history of Beach music that have based their entire repertoire on all original material. It is a risk that not many are willing to take. Rick has become legendary over the years in terms of arranging and songwriting, creating a wealth of solo tunes as well as hits for groups such as Band of Oz,  Shagtime and The Mighty Kicks. Combine Rick's stellar stage performance with the songwriting talent and vocal blending of Lesa Hudson, the guitar mastery of Debbie Anderson, the keyboard wizardry of Art Benton and the spectacular drums of Don Hamrick and what you have is a tight knit sound that has developed quite a fan following over the last four years.


The band's 2012 album release entitled Hangin' Out has done well for them to date. The upbeat rhythmic Every Now And Then was the lead track that has steadily climbed the charts. Harbor Lights has gained also some strong chart momentum of late. The award winning singing collaboration of Rick and Lesa continues on Let's Take Our Time and Gonna Come A Day. Personal favorites include Alive Til 95,  somewhat of a bluesy departure for the band, and Hey What You Say, which has a definite '70's funky groove. New singles after this album was released that have done extremely well include Lesa's holiday original Santa Can You Teach Me How To Shag and the Rick and Lesa combination vocals on I'm Hungover (a perfect post holiday tune!). A track from Lesa's 2011 Sweet Wonderful You album, Falling For You, is being re-released as a single due to recent fan support and radio play. All indications so far are that 2013 will indeed be another great year for The Rick Strickland Band!






So many Soul and R&B artists based in the Carolinas in the '60's and '70's recorded and performed in relative obscurity. For these very talented individuals to get a chance for exposure on the national stage was certainly not an everyday occurrence. One in particular that did get the opportunity was Estill, S.C. native Benny Gordon. Originally a Gospel vocalist, Benny released several solid Soul singles during the mid-to-late '60's on the Capitol, RCA Victor, GWP, TNT and Wand labels, among others. Although Benny spent quite a bit of time in New York, some of his best work was captured on the Allendale, S.C. based Estill Records (which also had a Brooklyn mailing address). So Much In Love, Sugar Mama (Parts 1 and 2) and When I See Her I'm Gonna Give Her All The Love I Got (this one re-released on Wand) on Estill are strong examples of Gordon 45 RPM issues that are heavy collector items in today's vinyl secondary market. Additional Gordon singles currently bringing a high price tag include Kiss To Build A Dream On (RCA), What Is Soul (RCA), You Found A New Love (Capitol), Camel Walk (Enrica), Give A Damn (About Your Fellow Man) (Shadow) and La-La-La-La I Am Falling In Love Again on Soul City U.S.A., which was also a South Carolina based label.

Many of Benny's recordings were with a band he fronted made up of fellow South Carolinians (including Benny's brother Sammy) called The Soul Brothers, which become an integral part of the '60's New York Soul music scene. Together they could conjure up a whole mess of Soul/Funk dynamite back in the day, according to several folks that remember seeing them perform in the city. Benny and The Soul Brothers released an LP on the Hot Biscuit label during this period entitled Tighten Up - I just saw the album available on eBay for $195. Wow!  The group served as the house band for a club called Trudi's in Greenwich Village which led to them being selected to provide the entertainment for Truman Capote's famed 'Party Of The Century' at the Plaza Hotel in 1966. The exclusive invitation only gala included Frank Sinatra among the guests, who took the stage with the band.

Benny and the band eventually moved back home to South Carolina where he opened a local club and played regularly in the area for several years. A few of Benny's '60's songs were included on the seventeen CD set distributed by Ripete Records in conjunction with Greg Haynes' 2006 book The Heeey Baby Days Of Beach Music.   Benny Gordon passed away on Christmas Eve, 2008 at the age of seventy-six.


Many thanks to Red Kelly of the Soul Detective website for his insight in the pursuit of uncovering many of the facts about the life of Benny Gordon.



Ron Henderson's Forthcoming Album

 Ron Henderson, Jr. has been singing and playing music almost as long as he can remember. He does come by it somewhat naturally – his dad, Ron Sr.  was an accomplished musician who was a mainstay at Reflection Sound Studios in Charlotte (Check out Carolina Soul Survey: The Reflection Sound Story). Junior grew up watching and learning from his dad's bands, The True Tones and later, Choice of Colour. Ron Sr. is another of the many great regional artists having a selection of singles in The Heeey Baby Days Of Beach Music CD set mentioned above.

Spending his early years living in Washington D.C, Ron Jr. formed a band called Burning Desire, that went on to win local talent shows. Moving to Charlotte to live with his dad, he was befriended and mentored by such music legends as Duke Hall and Maurice Williams. Ron joined Hall's band, Living Color, and eventually moved up to band leader. All the while he was learning the producing, arranging and songwriting aspects of the business. Over the years, he has played with and backed up Soul/R&B luminaries like Archie Bell, Brook Benton, The Shirelles, Major Lance, Clifford Curry, Al Wilson, Dottie Peoples, The Spaniels and Chairmen of the Board. He has written songs for Ron Sr, Maurice Williams, Dottie Peoples, among others. Ron has worked in the studio with accomplished engineers and musicians such as Mark Williams, Tim Gordon and his good friend and current partner, Barry Duke.

Ron is the Executive Producer/CEO of Arzje Productions in Charlotte. His forthcoming album (CD cover pictured above) features Ron's vocals as well as the classically trained stylings of Sonya Lee, a member of his current band, In The Key Of “G”.  The leadoff tune, entitled Zack's Shag Shack, has been sent as an advance to several Beach DJ's, garnering recent club and air play. The song was inspired by Zack Hancock, who Ron indicates is one of his biggest supporters. I cannot wait to hear the rest of the album from this very talented and accomplished songwriter, producer and arranger, Ron Henderson, Jr.!!



The upcoming 22nd Annual DJ Throwdown at North Myrtle Beach promises to be one of the best ever. The national headliner will be famed Texas based Blues guitarist Anson Funderburgh. Growing up in Dallas, he learned his trade from the tutelage of such greats as Freddie King, Albert Collins, Jimmy Reed and Lightnin' Hopkins. Anson formed his own band, The Rockets, in 1978 and partnered with harmonica legend Sam Myers in 1982. Talk To You By Hand by Anson & The Rockets was the very first album released by the newly formed New Orleans based Black Top Records in 1981. Other notables that recorded on the label included Solomon Burke, W.C. Clark, Lynn August, Omar & The Howlers, Maria Muldaur, Nappy Brown, Mike Morgan and Robert Ward. Anson, Sam and The Rockets went on to release eight more albums on Black Top until the studio closed up shop in 1999. They later moved over to record on the Rounder Records subsidiary Bullseye Blues label. Some of their best work can be found on the seventeen track 2006 release of The Best Of Anson Funderburgh: Blast Off.  Thursday, February 28th, will be quite a night – Band of Oz will get things started followed by Anson Funderburgh with the Fantastic Shakers set to close out the evening. Be sure not to miss it!


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If you are a true aficionado of '60's and '70's Beach and Soul music, you may appreciate the following list of rarities complete with the release label and year issued. These selections are guaranteed to liven up any jukebox dedicated to the Carolina sound of that era.


Patience Valentine -  Ernestine   SAR 1963

Freddie Hughes - I Gotta Keep My Bluff In   Wand 1965

Accents - You Better Think Again   One-Derful   1965

Falcons - I'm A Fool, I Must Love You   Big Wheel  1966

Jive Five - Crying Like A Baby   Musicor 1967

Bettye Swann - Fall In Love With Me   Money  1967

Winstons - Need A Replacement   Curtom 1968

Bettye Lavette - Almost   Karen 1968

Kelly Brothers - Crystal Blue Persuasion    Excello 1969

Bobby Hutton - Come See What's Left Of Me   Philips  1969

Barrino Brothers - Trapped In A Love   Invictus   1971

Eula Cooper - Standing By Love   Note 1971

Notations - I Can't Stop   Twinight  1971

Intrigues - Fly Now, Pay Later     Janus  1972

Patti & The Lovelites - Love Bandit  Cotillion 1972

Aristocrats - Let's Get Together Now  Warner Bros  1973

Ovations - Don't Say You Love Me   MGM 1974

Controllers - Is That Long Enough For You   Juana  1975

Patterson Twins - Gonna Find A True Love   Commercial  1976

Luther Ingram - Do You Think There's A Chance      Ko Ko  1977






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