WHO STOLE THE SOUL? THE DEATH OF RHYTHM AND BLUES IN VANCOUVER,PART II

WHO STOLE THE SOUL? THE DEATH OF RHYTHM AND BLUES IN VANCOUVER, PART II

By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor – in – Chief

BASN NEWSROOM

 

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA (www.basnnewsroom.com) As the map of Soul was being established across North America, it was now becoming more aware that those in the know were going to have to take it seriously – because they were beginning to count the money…

 

The list of Top 100 Soul / R&B Hits in 1965 was dominated by Chicago and Detroit. Motown was starting to flex its pop muscle with several chart makers on their main label as well as subsidiary labels like Tamla, Gordy and Soul. Chicago’s Chess/Checker powerhouse was going strong and that didn’t include work done by Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler or The Impressions.

James Brown was just starting to burn with the Famous Flames, and long before Ohio (specifically Dayton) would become the Epicenter of FONK, King Records out of Cincinnati was home to The Godfather – and Little Willie John…

Memphis via Booker T. and the MG’s, Otis Redding and the doo-wop flava of The Mad Lads was helping Stax to establish itself, and Solomon Burke, Don Covay and Wilson Pickett were helping to build the Atlantic Records catalog.

There was room for indie labels like Dial (Joe Tex) and Duke (Bobby Blue Bland) down in Texas, as well as numbers by jazz artists like Gloria Lynne and Ramsey Lewis…

 

MEANWHILE, BACK  IN VANCOUVER…

 

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The Epics were kicking all kinds of ass on stage; on the strength of doing cover tunes alone, they gave the best sound in B.C. As their front man, Hoover brought a combination of smooth presence but raw edge vocally on stage. “I had always loved the more earthly, raw style than the more sanitized approach Motown took – and that’s not to say they didn’t have great singers – it seemed they were trying to please everyone rather than please themselves musically.”

To understand the depth of this, know that there were very few multi-ethnic acts performing in North America. the Del – Vikings, a doo-wop group out of Pittsburgh, had one white singer in their five-man group. A California pop group, The Association, was four white guys and an Asian cat. Until Sly and the Family Stone broke the mold ethnically and roles of gender re members of bands two years later, the presence of a Black man fronting a group of White musicians was a rare occurrence.

 

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Considering the breakdown of ethnic groups living in the Pacific Northwest, it would be no surprise to find Whites were in the majority. To find that there were separate drinking fountains (confirmed by Hoover) in Seattle as opposed to say, Selma, Alabama was an indication other factors would be part of the interplay and acceptance in walking through the awkwardness of the 1960s; something special would be needed to initiate a better artistic stream of thought.

Hoover’s versatility made him something special. Even if it didn’t seem to be immediately appreciated, he would become a vital cog in this evolution. As soul music continued to permeate the airwaves, the beat continued on for Motown. Of the top 100 soul songs done in 1966, 28 of them were done by Motown artists.

Every pop and variety show began to pick up on Motown’s performers, lending credence to Berry Gordy’s claim of being “The Sound of Young America.”Everyone from Shindig to The Ed Sullivan Show to Hollywood a go-go to American Bandstand,  wanted and needed content from Motown.

Canada was just as connected. A 50,000 watt radio station mainlining grooves from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit and back was well fed with Soul Food from Motown until the Detroit riots of 1967; and a Canadian cousin of the U.K. pop show “Ready, Steady, Go” was in effect – looking for talent to cover all those songs each week. Hoover was one of a very small handful able to translate the era’s hit parade with maximum effect; but the act of reciprocity remained a curiosity…

 

ENTER BOBBY TAYLOR

 

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At this time Bobby Taylor (front), raised with connections on both sides of the border, was garnering the attention of mighty Motown with a set done at a local club called The Elegant Parlor. Bobby’s group, the Vancouvers, would eventually be signed and on their first album would produce one of the most important tracks in that label’s history.

Given the racial climate of the 1960s, multi-ethnic dating (fuck that ‘interracial’ bullshit; one race many ethnic groups – wish they’d stop fucking with that) wasn’t as taboo as having it appear as a natural notion. Taylor’s epic ballad, “Does Your Mama Know About Me?” asks the question with the implying this conversation is a Black/White one male to female (forbidden fruit notwithstanding) but movie and radio producer David ‘Love” Jones revealed the true basis behind the lyrics and the purpose in a live interview with Taylor on his radio show “African Rhythms” last year…

“The song,” recalls Taylor, “wasn’t about a Black kid trying to impress White parents – it was about an Asian young man hoping to step positively toward a Black girl’s parents.”

Due to a contentious relationship with Berry Gordy, the proper promotion was never implemented for this song – it became a Top 40 hit literally in spite of Gordy!

Because if Gordy had the sensitivity to see the truth in Taylor’s song, young women – but especially young Black women – would have seen a hint of their value to our collective culture; seeing them as exalted and worthy of all attention, affection and respect as other ethnic groups…

Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd. would write “Black Pearl,” an anthem for Black females – almost four years later; a huge faux pas for Gordy – borne more out of hubris in hindsight…

With Jayson and the Epics and Taylor naming his group after his adopted home city, other bands and performers began to understand they were the Gold Standard for honing their skills to their level. So perhaps more young talent was apt to go West – or stay West – because a foundation was beginning to form…

 

Next Time: Building Stock and Stumbling Blocks

 

always outnumbered…never outgunned.

Copyright(c) 2019 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.

 

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