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ROBERT DUWAYNE ‘BOBBY’ WOMACK: 1944-2014
‘Bobby, you know why you play so good? You play with the spirit, you don’t play with no music. You motivate, me, Bobby. The way you play makes me sing’
Heady praise for a 16 year old being told this by the finest singer of that day, Sam Cooke.
The young man was Bobby Womack, who died in his sleep Thursday evening, June 27th at the age of 70, having led as fabled, productive and long lasting a career of any of his contemporaries in the world of Soul Music. This was despite a series of hard knocks, setbacks and tragedies, any one of which might have stayed---if not entirely ended--- the career of a less driven performer. But Womack became one of the very greatest & charismatic of performers in black music of the 20th Century, a nonpareil vocal stylist, songwriter/bandleader, arranger and instrumentalist.
I was the third brother of five/doing whatever I had to do to survive/I’m not saying what I did was alright/Trying to break out of the ghetto was a day to day fight
As indicated autobiographically by the title song of a soundtrack for the 70s movie ‘Across 110th Street’, he grew up in a desperately poor black neighborhood in Cleveland Ohio, quite indeed one of 5 brothers born into a family of unyieldingly religious parents. First performing in a gospel quintet with his siblings, he soon came to the attention of the transformational singer of American pop music, Sam Cooke. Soon Cooke had finessed their father into allowing them to sing secular music, and from there it was a hit record for Bobby and his brothers. But as things worked out, it was indeed the third brother of 5 who ended up with an astonishing run in the music world.
Possessing a grit-filled, dynamic vocal presence that had been schooled in the Sam Cooke School of song & life, Womack worked as a session guitarist extraordinaire, songwriter (no less than Wilson Pickett recorded no less than 17 of his compositions, songs where the composer also played the lead guitar parts in the studio), and eventually was able to parley his connections and talents into a major recording/performing career as a solo artist. Along the way, he inspired Janis Joplin to write her final song ‘Mercedes Benz’ as well as George Benson’s greatest instrumental hit, the title cut of his enormously popular mid 70s LP for Warner Brothers,
He also back in the 60s as a teenager penned the first hit The Rolling Stones had in the USA, It’s All Over Now’; at first, he expressed his bitterness about a white rock band taking his song and getting a big hit, even though his mentor Cooke laughed at his objections, saying ‘wait until you get your first royalty check’. As he later told it in a frank autobiography published in 2006:
I was still screaming and hollering right up until I got my first royalty check…Man, the amount of money rolling in shut me right up. I have been chasing the Stones ever since trying to get them to record another of my songs.
For those well versed in American rhythm and blues/soul music, Womack was an unquestioned, category of one individual, a singer’s singer as it were, recognized as musical royalty of the highest order. He had several radio hits, but never one that crossed him over to the larger white pop audience. Along the way he picked up a decades-long addiction to cocaine, yet still was able to produce music and songs that would re-establish him on the radio, such as the popular and heralded album The Poet from the early 80s. Much of that decade and the 1990s saw him withdraw from the public eye, but the undeniable quality of his earlier hits (‘Stop On By’, also covered by Chaka Khan; ‘That’s The Way I Feel About You’, ‘Woman’s Gotta Have It’, & others) made him a staple on Black Oldies radio formats throughout the U.S. His voice was so singular and undeniable, it could not be refused or forgotten by the adult black audiences in towns such as St. Louis, where Womack always had a loyal following and successful personal appearances.
In December of 2012, after coming through a bout of cancer, he announced his doctors had told him he was showing the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. This was after right he had finished a new album in London, with the English dub step unit Gorillaz,
The Greatest Man In The Universe.
His final LP found him in the role of King Lear, songs that no doubt expressed reflection and regret; from a life of failed marriages, drug addiction, children that had tragically died, or ended up in prison.
Yet 4 months after announcing this diagnosis saw him headlining a soul/blues package tour of venues as headliner for a one day ‘festival’ that included Bobby Blue Bland and a host of Southern soul-blues singers. His final performance for the St. Louis audience was a 55 minute set at the Chaifetz Auditorium, March 2013, and in view of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it was even more heroic, on hearing his vocal powers undiminished, as he lead a top-notch 12 piece band.
I met with him briefly once more, as I had several times in the past. Lou Fatha Thimes accompanied me, a radio personality well remembered by a cheerful Womack, as we chatted right before his show. As always, his stage attire was debonair and stylish; as always, he thrilled the crowd and gave it his all. It was a fine performance.
With the death of Mr. Womack, the last living link to the world of Sam Cooke has left the world, and looking over the current offerings in music, it is clear this is yet another example of how when a foundation artist dies, the immensity of that artist’s talent and achievements makes one wonder, will we ever see anyone of such presence again? Bobby Womack: he was The Poet, and he was as great a soul singer to have walked to the stage in this century, as well as the last.
Special "The Rockville LP" street date instore performance with O.A.R.
Vintage Vinyl is very excited to announce that the store will be hosting a very special instore performance and record signing with O.A.R.!!! The band is releasing their brand new record "The Rockville LP" on June 10th and to celebrate it they are doing an exclusive instore performance at Vintage Vinyl! Pre-order "The Rockville LP" from Vintage Vinyl on LP or CD and you will get a pass into the exclusive instore performance and a copy of the record ON street date. This event will be a "to capacity" event and is expected to "sell out" before street date so pre-order your copy now at Vintage Vinyl. For more details please call the store at 314-721-4096.
Also, make sure to grab tickets for the band's show at The Fox Theatre two days later on June 12!
RON LEVY, TALES OF A ROAD DOG by PAPA RAY
I’ve always sought out the memoirs and autobiographies of musicians, but that can be a mixed blessing and a trick bag of subjective comments, depending on the writer---or his ghostwriter you might say. So often, the ‘goods’ you want delivered from someone who was involved at the center of historic moments just are not brought to the page; faulty memories, axes to grind, lack of candor, or in-exact recollections can leave you with an unsatisfying experience (case in point; the autobiography of James Brown). I’m happy to say that master-musician Ron Levy avoids those pitfalls with this highly enjoyable view of a life on the American blues scene, and it stands well beyond every such work I’ve read in the past ten years---at least.
A keyboard/producer/composer/arranger of the first order, Ron’s 26-chapter book moves fast as BB King in 1972 doing all those one-night stands; he should know, because for 7 years Levy was the young pianist behind the world’s best known blues artist, notable as the first white keyboardist in King’s employ. Oh, he also did the same for Albert King as an under-aged and therefore legal ward of the gruff guitarist, and along the way has produced some of the best blues/soul releases of the past 25 years for the Rounder label.
This book is brimming with witty insights, comments, and real-deal tales never seen in print. Ron also brings a real generosity of spirit and compassion for his fellow band members and the headliners, while also letting the reader know the nuts & bolts of being a touring sideman. There are over 100 photos (nearly all of which I had never seen), an easily followed time-&-place pace to everything, and in general informed by the line ‘half the story has never been told’. This is an informative volume that could only be given by someone at Ground Zero of the past 40 years of contemporary blues, and we are very pleased to offer this for 2013 Holiday Season, at $24.99. A major step forward in documenting the world of blues, I wouldn’t tell you no lie!
Displaying the City Of St. Louis' Proclamation in honor of our 33rd & 3rd Anniversary Celebration, it was only fitting that Josh Wiese (former employee and alumnus of the Vintage Vinyl College Of Musical Knowledge) presented not only Mayor Francis Slay's official declaration, but Josh also brought Mayor Slay's selection of 70s Rock for playing as part of the festivities: FOR THE RECORD, Hizzoner's first salvo was by the power trio Dust; 'From A Dry Camel'....Papa Ray was heard to say,
Indeed, our mayor is a child of KSHE Radio ...
Come see the amazing paintings and prints of Karl Haglund
In the world of art, sometime you search for something, other times things find you. In the case of art of Karl Haglund, it was one of the most exciting "cold call" emails that Vintage Vinyl has ever received. A former St. Louisan who now calls Iowa home,
Karl Haglund's work is in various areas and formats but the one that Vintage Vinyl was most excited about collaborating with him on his debut St. Louis showing was his works of famous guitars. On October 13th at 1:00PM, Vintage Vinyl will be hosting a very special opening for the works of
Karl Haglund, there will be original paintings and framed prints for sale and Schlafly Beer will be providing the beer!
VINTAGE VINYL HAS AMAZING ART FROM STEVE KEENE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE!!!
Though you may not know his work by name, you most definitely know Steve Keene's art by sight. Having done art for such artists as Pavement, Silver Jews, Apples in Stereo, Dave Matthews Band and many more, Keene is internationally known for his inspired yet economical art and Vintage Vinyl is proud to be able to offer Steve Keene art for sale! Stop by Vintage Vinyl and see the amazing selection of Steve Keene originals that are now available for sale!
KETC CHANNEL NINE CAPTURES VINTAGE VINYL IN ACTION!
Check this clip for the wonderful feature that recently ran on KETC television
highlighting our store---we can’t disagree with anything they said! Big thanks to Ms. Angela Antkowiak with KETC’S local origination show Living St. Louis for really getting the story and bringing the camera right down front for Record Store Day 2010! CLICK HERE TO WATCH
VINTAGE VINYL IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THE RELEASE OF MUSIC BY OLIVER SAIN:St. Louis Breakdown: The Best Of Oliver Sain on Sain Sound Records on Sound System Records.
Available on CD and 180-gram vinyl presses, and from the time we announced plans for
its release in 2008 there were inquiries and expressions of interest here in our
hometown as well as from friends nationally and around the world.
1. Oliver Sain - Soul Serenade
2. Oliver Sain - St. Louis Breakdown
3. Oliver Sain - Bus Stop
OLIVER SAIN ST. LOUIS BREAKDOWN-BEST OF OLIVER SAIN
OLIVER SAIN was the single most influential musician in the St. Louis area from 1960 to his death in 2003; no one had as great an impact as this bandleader/songwriter/producer/studio owner in nearly a half-century of dominance. But beyond his hometown, Sain gained international respect and admiration for his distinctive sound as an alto saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist.
Yes, he wrote material for which others (Fontella Bass, Ann Peebles) achieved chart hits, with a telling gift for crafting songs for female vocalists (blues singer Tracy Nelson has been quoted as saying his song “Walk Away” being as fine a lyric ever written for a woman), and always had the best working band St. Louis could boast, but as a soloist in the blues/soul/funk realm, only Maceo Parker is comparable as having such a signature sound and original tone. His influence on no less than St. Louis native David Sanborn is obvious, and the recordings on St. Louis Breakdown show a master of the studio world framing his great playing over original compositions as well as songs by others that became so transformed by Oliver, his versions are arguably definitive. Specifically, his stirring, strutting version of ‘Soul Serenade’ was a rallying cry for his fans in our city----his four-note introduction to this King Curtis number would evoke standing ovations and cheers at the shows and club appearances he made throughout his career.
We are so proud of making available again the music of Oliver Sain, a man we admired and loved as one does your best of friends. PERHAPS one day, our city will posthumously recognize this cultural icon; in the meantime, listen to his music, and be amazed and gladdened. Give a listen, and you will understand.