Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Thu 7 Jul 11 11:04
Kenny did sessions for Willie in New York, yeah. A lot of the same session guys were on Atlantic and King R&B sessions. Oh, Fortune is the great almost mythical Detroit treasure trove. If Fortune didn't exist, we would have had to invent it. The woulda, shoulda been a contender label that Berry Gordy tried to buy several times over. He tried to buy up their biggest star, Nolan Strong, but Nolan was too dependent on the Browns, who owned the label. Jack and Devora Brown, ran the place on a shoestring, out of first a house, then a narrow storefront with a dirt floor studio in the back. But there was something mystical about those records, a sound no other label could match. They would rent time by the hour for kids to come in and make records...if the kid sounded promising --as Nolan Strong did -- they would offer to record him for free. A L.A. lawyer contacted me a few years ago, asking if I knew where Sheldon Brown was -- the son, who owns the rights to the catalog. There's never been legitimate CD releases of the Fortune catalog...Sheldon thought he would get what Berry Gordy got when he sold Motown. Try again! So he didn't cut a deal with anybody.
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Thu 7 Jul 11 11:05
p.s. Last I knew, the mysterious Sheldon Brown was in L.A. When he was still in metro Detroit, he wouldn't meet with me face to face, but talked on the phone. He once did a drop at a Kinko's, left a photo for me there. He used to be seen riding his bike around Royal Oak.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 7 Jul 11 11:26
Dang. As long as the tapes are safe... So...back to the book for a minute...how little *was* Little Willie when he started singing in public?
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 7 Jul 11 12:30
<18> that unknown tune was straight ahead r&b. Not even a faint resonance to hippie anthems. I remember the Detroit jazz scene as being more than the Jones Brothers. Baker's Keyboard Lounge brought in national acts, but people like Marcus Belgrave and Wendall Harrison and the Tribe were going strong at that time. Charles Mingus came to town and played an old hotel that some entrepreneur types with trust funds were trying to get off the ground. The first thing out of Mingus's mouth was : "The only way I get to play with Marcus Belgrave is to come to Detroit because he won't leave town anymore." Then there were the guys who later became known as the Funk Brothers who played jazz gigs. In the 40's and 50's before they left Detroit, you had Betty Carter, Wardell Gray, Milt Buckner, Howard McGee, Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Louis Hayes, Paul Chambers, Yusef Latiff, and Milt Jackson.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 7 Jul 11 13:14
david--is this the song you're looking for--don't pat me on the back and call me brother by John Kasandra. it's from 1968-- <http://youtu.be/SOsOS_F-vI8>
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 7 Jul 11 13:15
Oh, man, that name is familiar... I'm sure I had tha album. But who was he?
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 7 Jul 11 13:20
john kasandra was the alter ego of John W Anderson. Here is some info about the album that don't pat me on the back is on: <http://www.dustygroove.com/item.php?id=m5w5g4mdws>
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 7 Jul 11 13:22
He wrote the bobby bland song, Ain't Nothing You can Do. Here is a tiny bit of additional info about him: <http://stepfatherofsoul.blogspot.com/2006/02/soul-of-movement-whats-under- natural.html>
David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 7 Jul 11 13:48
Patrick, I will forever be in your debt. Thanks! That's the tune.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Thu 7 Jul 11 14:00
you're welcome! but it's the miracle of the vast, ever expanding online database that is absorbing all particles of extant information at an exponentially increasing rate---i don't think it would have been possible to track down the name of the song even 5 years ago unless you happened to either stumble across the album/single or asked someone who had just stumbled across the album/single.
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Thu 7 Jul 11 14:19
Wow, so John Kasandra it is... Ed, Willie was only 6 when he started singing with his sister Mable and brothers in the United Five. I believe Marcus Belgrave had a very strong smoke allergy so he couldn't play in clubs for the longest time, either, so you'd see him outdoors at the Detroit Jazz Festival, or not at all. A lot of what I know about the Detroit jazz scene, I know from talking to the various Funk brothers. They were hilariously dismissive of many of the Motown stars they worked with. Beans Bowles was particularly hard on Diana Ross -- I thought overly so. It's not as if she was Sarah Vaughan, but she could sing in her girlish way.
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Thu 7 Jul 11 14:22
I've been lucky enough to beat Joe Messina's house when he has jam sessions with friends. He remembers very few specific Motown songs he's on, because he never cared about pop songs. He cares about jazz. The drill is, they noodle around on various standards, while Joe intersperses the playing with terrible jokes. When I asked him once if he was one of the guitars in the intro to the Spinners' "It's a Shame," he said "Do you like it?" I said yeah! He said, "Then it's me!"
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 7 Jul 11 15:06
So did any of these dittyboppers play with Willie? Or did he hew his career in a different way?
mother of my eyelid (frako) Fri 8 Jul 11 13:10
Susan, I read your book and enjoyed it a great deal. I have friends and family in Detroit, and I go back there at least once a year to walk and drive around and learn the city's history. I've barely begun to visit all the Detroit musical luminaries' graves at Woodlawn Cemetery on Woodward Avenue--I did pay tribute to Jackie Wilson's grave in Westlawn Cemetery in Wayne. I don't recall reading where Little Willie John is buried--did you not say in your book? I think it's a huge pity that there is no video footage of LWJ in performance visible today except that short clip from "Route 66"--what episode is that from, so I can do further research and view it?
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 04:42
Frako, I do know where Willie's buried and you know, I looked back and you're right, I don't mention it in the book. I talked about his funeral at New Bethel Baptist Church, Rev. C.L. Franklin officiating, how he was laid out at the Cantrell Funeral home, but then got all caught up in describing the post-funeral scene, etc. Willie is at what is called Detroit Memorial Park East although it's technically in Warren. Florence Ballard of the Supremes is also there. I actually did a pretty cool interactive story for the Detroit News last year, where I give locations for many musicians' gravesites in and around Detroit. http://www.detnews.com/article/20101111/SPECIAL01/101110001/ Go there, click on "Detroit Memorial Park" and then on Willie's name and a photo of his grave and everything comes up. Woodlawn alone has many Motown folks, and there are others scattered around town...Nolan Strong of the Diablos is also out where Jackie Wilson is, at Westlawn.
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 04:46
Oh and the Route 66 episode is called "Give the Old Cat a Tender Mouse," and it aired Dec. 21, 1962. It's very short so don't expect much, but it is him, wearing a short band jacket, playing the claves as if his life depended on it, in a nightclub scene based in Memphis.
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 04:50
Ed, do you mean which of the Funk Brothers played with Willie? Joe Hunter played keyboards behind him quite a lot, because Joe toured with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and back when Willie had no band, the Midnighters backed him up. Joe was also a family friend. He knew Willie's sister Delores very well. Of the others, Uriel Jones was in Moore School (for Detroit public school kids who acted up) at the same time as Willie, and knew him. I bet Earl van Dyke played with Willie at some point, especially later in the '60s when Willie was playing club gigs at places like Phelps Lounge, and Earl was very active in the clubs then. Earl passed some time ago of course, and I didn't explore that thread.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 9 Jul 11 05:36
I was actually wondering about any of the Detroit jazz guys, not just the Funk Brothers. One of the amazing things about the book is that, around the edges, so many of these people all knew each other. There's that picture of Willie onstage with all those dancers, three of whom married stars -- one of whom was Willie himself! But it does seem like Detroit musicians were a large group who stuck together and seem to have avoided a lot of the cliquishness you find in scenes like this (ie, Memphis). Or am I just dealing with rose-colored glasses here?
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 10:34
What I like about the Detroit musicians too are, the cross-pollination, they all knew each other from the clubs, and many of the jazz guys would do R&B gigs... I know more of those types (R&B guys with a facility for jazz) who played with Willie, guys like Joe Weaver, who told me the co'hn likker story, and blues guitarist Johnnie Bassett, who started out with Willie in the Warfield Theater, as teenagers. Johnnie is on Mack Ave. Records, gigs a lot and goes back and forth between jazz and blues...
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 10:34
Although, of course, it was Paul Williams, and the Hucklebuck, that got Willie out of Detroit...
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 9 Jul 11 10:43
There was a Paul Williams in the Temptations, too. Different guy, I assume.
My free and simple demeanor set everybody at ease. (pdl) Sat 9 Jul 11 13:22
Otis Blackwell pitched Fever to Henry Glover at during a routine visit and Willie did not like it at first. Did willie ever meet Otis, did he ever have any sort of relationship with him? Otis Blackwell has always been an interesting figure to me--he wrote so many of the greatest hits of early rock and yet he remains somewhat obscure. Or at least he seems pretty obscure to me, given the amount of success he had.
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 14:03
Ed -- yes, two different Paul Williamses ...the News just had a sad story about the fighting between Motown's Paul Williams' heirs over the Motown royalties he gets. He left a lot of kids and it's surprising how much does flow in, year to year. So the Temptations got paid. Yes Otis Blackwell and Willie knew each other well...Willie did some other songs by Otis and they co-wrote some...
Susan Whitall (bluesyscribe) Sat 9 Jul 11 14:04
p.s. I wish I'd gotten to talk to Otis B about Willie, that would hae been great.
Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Sat 9 Jul 11 14:39
Listening to Otis Blackwell play "Paralyzed" just now made me realize that rockabilly is based on boogie woogie piano with vocals that match the syncopation of the backing. So simple, and it took me forty years to figure it out!
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