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Episode 987 Synopsis for 12/14/22: -AEW Dynamite Winter is Coming 2022 recap as MJF has his first title defense against Ricky Starks!-Brian Cage losing to Jungle Boy via submission? Wait what???-Chris Jericho puts over a Create-A-Wrestling in Campaign Mode ERR--Real Life!-Preview for AEW RAMPAGE this Friday 12/16/22-Circling back to the release of Mandy Rose from WWE (Lee covered it at length exclusively on YOUTUBE so go check it out)-Conrad Thompson defends Bruce Prichard from JDFromNY over NXT conspiracy-Ol Conrad reveals it was actually Johnny Ace who butchered NXT, not Bruce-Don't wanna assume, talk and react to the facts. 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Host Nate Wilcox asks Daniel about B.B. King's beginnings on Beale Street.Buy the book and support the podcast.Download this episode.Have a question or a suggestion for a topic or person for Nate to interview? Email email@example.comFollow us on Twitter.Follow us on Facebook.Let It Roll is proud to be part of Pantheon Podcasts.
Episode one hundred and fifty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Was Made to Love Her", the early career of Stevie Wonder, and the Detroit riots of 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode available, on "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources As usual, I've put together a Mixcloud playlist of all the recordings excerpted in this episode. The best value way to get all of Stevie Wonder's early singles is this MP3 collection, which has the original mono single mixes of fifty-five tracks for a very reasonable price. For those who prefer physical media, this is a decent single-CD collection of his early work at a very low price indeed. As well as the general Motown information listed below, I've also referred to Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder by Mark Ribowsky, which rather astonishingly is the only full-length biography of Wonder, to Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul by Craig Werner, and to Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul by Stuart Cosgrove. For Motown-related information in this and other Motown episodes, I've used the following resources: Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound by Nelson George is an excellent popular history of the various companies that became Motown. To Be Loved by Berry Gordy is Gordy's own, understandably one-sided, but relatively well-written, autobiography. Women of Motown: An Oral History by Susan Whitall is a collection of interviews with women involved in Motown. I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B by J. Andrew Flory is an academic look at Motown. The Motown Encyclopaedia by Graham Betts is an exhaustive look at the people and records involved in Motown's thirty-year history. How Sweet It Is by Lamont Dozier and Scott B. Bomar is Dozier's autobiography, while Come and Get These Memories by Brian and Eddie Holland and Dave Thompson is the Holland brothers'. Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson by "Dr Licks" is a mixture of a short biography of the great bass player, and tablature of his most impressive bass parts. And Motown Junkies is an infrequently-updated blog looking at (so far) the first 694 tracks released on Motown singles. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A quick note before I begin -- this episode deals with disability and racism, and also deals from the very beginning with sex work and domestic violence. It also has some discussion of police violence and sexual assault. As always I will try to deal with those subjects as non-judgementally and sensitively as possible, but if you worry that anything about those subjects might disturb you, please check the transcript. Calvin Judkins was not a good man. Lula Mae Hardaway thought at first he might be, when he took her in, with her infant son whose father had left before the boy was born. He was someone who seemed, when he played the piano, to be deeply sensitive and emotional, and he even did the decent thing and married her when he got her pregnant. She thought she could save him, even though he was a street hustler and not even very good at it, and thirty years older than her -- she was only nineteen, he was nearly fifty. But she soon discovered that he wasn't interested in being saved, and instead he was interested in hurting her. He became physically and financially abusive, and started pimping her out. Lula would eventually realise that Calvin Judkins was no good, but not until she got pregnant again, shortly after the birth of her second son. Her third son was born premature -- different sources give different numbers for how premature, with some saying four months and others six weeks -- and while he apparently went by Stevland Judkins throughout his early childhood, the name on his birth certificate was apparently Stevland Morris, Lula having decided not to give another child the surname of her abuser, though nobody has ever properly explained where she got the surname "Morris" from. Little Stevland was put in an incubator with an oxygen mask, which saved the tiny child's life but destroyed his sight, giving him a condition called retinopathy of prematurity -- a condition which nowadays can be prevented and cured, but in 1951 was just an unavoidable consequence for some portion of premature babies. Shortly after the family moved from Saginaw to Detroit, Lula kicked Calvin out, and he would remain only a peripheral figure in his children's lives, but one thing he did do was notice young Stevland's interest in music, and on his increasingly infrequent visits to his wife and kids -- visits that usually ended with violence -- he would bring along toy instruments for the young child to play, like a harmonica and a set of bongos. Stevie was a real prodigy, and by the time he was nine he had a collection of real musical instruments, because everyone could see that the kid was something special. A neighbour who owned a piano gave it to Stevie when she moved out and couldn't take it with her. A local Lions Club gave him a drum kit at a party they organised for local blind children, and a barber gave him a chromatic harmonica after seeing him play his toy one. Stevie gave his first professional performance when he was eight. His mother had taken him to a picnic in the park, and there was a band playing, and the little boy got as close to the stage as he could and started dancing wildly. The MC of the show asked the child who he was, and he said "My name is Stevie, and I can sing and play drums", so of course they got the cute kid up on stage behind the drum kit while the band played Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love": [Excerpt: Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love"] He did well enough that they paid him seventy-five cents -- an enormous amount for a small child at that time -- though he was disappointed afterwards that they hadn't played something faster that would really allow him to show off his drumming skills. After that he would perform semi-regularly at small events, and always ask to be paid in quarters rather than paper money, because he liked the sound of the coins -- one of his party tricks was to be able to tell one coin from another by the sound of them hitting a table. Soon he formed a duo with a neighbourhood friend, John Glover, who was a couple of years older and could play guitar while Stevie sang and played harmonica and bongos. The two were friends, and both accomplished musicians for their age, but that wasn't the only reason Stevie latched on to Glover. Even as young as he was, he knew that Motown was soon going to be the place to be in Detroit if you were a musician, and Glover had an in -- his cousin was Ronnie White of the Miracles. Stevie and John performed as a duo everywhere they could and honed their act, performing particularly at the talent shows which were such an incubator of Black musical talent at the time, and they also at this point seem to have got the attention of Clarence Paul, but it was White who brought the duo to Motown. Stevie and John first played for White and Bobby Rodgers, another of the Miracles, then when they were impressed they took them through the several layers of Motown people who would have to sign off on signing a new act. First they were taken to see Brian Holland, who was a rising star within Motown as "Please Mr. Postman" was just entering the charts. They impressed him with a performance of the Miracles song "Bad Girl": [Excerpt: The Miracles, "Bad Girl"] After that, Stevie and John went to see Mickey Stevenson, who was at first sceptical, thinking that a kid so young -- Stevie was only eleven at the time -- must be some kind of novelty act rather than a serious musician. He said later "It was like, what's next, the singing mouse?" But Stevenson was won over by the child's talent. Normally, Stevenson had the power to sign whoever he liked to the label, but given the extra legal complications involved in signing someone under-age, he had to get Berry Gordy's permission. Gordy didn't even like signing teenagers because of all the extra paperwork that would be involved, and he certainly wasn't interested in signing pre-teens. But he came down to the studio to see what Stevie could do, and was amazed, not by his singing -- Gordy didn't think much of that -- but by his instrumental ability. First Stevie played harmonica and bongos as proficiently as an adult professional, and then he made his way around the studio playing on every other instrument in the place -- often only a few notes, but competent on them all. Gordy decided to sign the duo -- and the initial contract was for an act named "Steve and John" -- but it was soon decided to separate them. Glover would be allowed to hang around Motown while he was finishing school, and there would be a place for him when he finished -- he later became a staff songwriter, working on tracks for the Four Tops and the Miracles among others, and he would even later write a number one hit, "You Don't Have to be a Star (to be in My Show)" for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr -- but they were going to make Stevie a star right now. The man put in charge of that was Clarence Paul. Paul, under his birth name of Clarence Pauling, had started his career in the "5" Royales, a vocal group he formed with his brother Lowman Pauling that had been signed to Apollo Records by Ralph Bass, and later to King Records. Paul seems to have been on at least some of the earliest recordings by the group, so is likely on their first single, "Give Me One More Chance": [Excerpt: The "5" Royales, "Give Me One More Chance"] But Paul was drafted to go and fight in the Korean War, and so wasn't part of the group's string of hit singles, mostly written by his brother Lowman, like "Think", which later became better known in James Brown's cover version, or "Dedicated to the One I Love", later covered by the Shirelles, but in its original version dominated by Lowman's stinging guitar playing: [Excerpt: The "5" Royales, "Dedicated to the One I Love"] After being discharged, Clarence had shortened his name to Clarence Paul, and had started recording for all the usual R&B labels like Roulette and Federal, with little success: [Excerpt: Clarence Paul, "I'm Gonna Love You, Love You Til I Die"] He'd also co-written "I Need Your Lovin'", which had been an R&B hit for Roy Hamilton: [Excerpt: Roy Hamilton, "I Need Your Lovin'"] Paul had recently come to work for Motown – one of the things Berry Gordy did to try to make his label more attractive was to hire the relatives of R&B stars on other labels, in the hopes of getting them to switch to Motown – and he was the new man on the team, not given any of the important work to do. He was working with acts like Henry Lumpkin and the Valladiers, and had also been the producer of "Mind Over Matter", the single the Temptations had released as The Pirates in a desperate attempt to get a hit: [Excerpt: The Pirates, "Mind Over Matter"] Paul was the person you turned to when no-one else was interested, and who would come up with bizarre ideas. A year or so after the time period we're talking about, it was him who produced an album of country music for the Supremes, before they'd had a hit, and came up with "The Man With the Rock and Roll Banjo Band" for them: [Excerpt: The Supremes, "The Man With The Rock and Roll Banjo Band"] So, Paul was the perfect person to give a child -- by this time twelve years old -- who had the triple novelties of being a multi-instrumentalist, a child, and blind. Stevie started spending all his time around the Motown studios, partly because he was eager to learn everything about making records and partly because his home life wasn't particularly great and he wanted to be somewhere else. He earned the affection and irritation, in equal measure, of people at Motown both for his habit of wandering into the middle of sessions because he couldn't see the light that showed that the studio was in use, and for his practical joking. He was a great mimic, and would do things like phoning one of the engineers and imitating Berry Gordy's voice, telling the engineer that Stevie would be coming down, and to give him studio equipment to take home. He'd also astonish women by complimenting them, in detail, on their dresses, having been told in advance what they looked like by an accomplice. But other "jokes" were less welcome -- he would regularly sexually assault women working at Motown, grabbing their breasts or buttocks and then claiming it was an accident because he couldn't see what he was doing. Most of the women he molested still speak of him fondly, and say everybody loved him, and this may even be the case -- and certainly I don't think any of us should be judged too harshly for what we did when we were twelve -- but this kind of thing led to a certain amount of pressure to make Stevie's career worth the extra effort he was causing everyone at Motown. Because Berry Gordy was not impressed with Stevie's vocals, the decision was made to promote him as a jazz instrumentalist, and so Clarence Paul insisted that his first release be an album, rather than doing what everyone would normally do and only put out an album after a hit single. Paul reasoned that there was no way on Earth they were going to be able to get a hit single with a jazz instrumental by a twelve-year-old kid, and eventually persuaded Gordy of the wisdom of this idea. So they started work on The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, released under his new stagename of Little Stevie Wonder, supposedly a name given to him after Berry Gordy said "That kid's a wonder!", though Mickey Stevenson always said that the name came from a brainstorming session between him and Clarence Paul. The album featured Stevie on harmonica, piano, and organ on different tracks, but on the opening track, "Fingertips", he's playing the bongos that give the track its name: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (studio version)"] The composition of that track is credited to Paul and the arranger Hank Cosby, but Beans Bowles, who played flute on the track, always claimed that he came up with the melody, and it seems quite likely to me that most of the tracks on the album were created more or less as jam sessions -- though Wonder's contributions were all overdubbed later. The album sat in the can for several months -- Berry Gordy was not at all sure of its commercial potential. Instead, he told Paul to go in another direction -- focusing on Wonder's blindness, he decided that what they needed to do was create an association in listeners' minds with Ray Charles, who at this point was at the peak of his commercial power. So back into the studio went Wonder and Paul, to record an album made up almost entirely of Ray Charles covers, titled Tribute to Uncle Ray. (Some sources have the Ray Charles tribute album recorded first -- and given Motown's lax record-keeping at this time it may be impossible to know for sure -- but this is the way round that Mark Ribowsky's biography of Wonder has it). But at Motown's regular quality control meeting it was decided that there wasn't a single on the album, and you didn't release an album like that without having a hit single first. By this point, Clarence Paul was convinced that Berry Gordy was just looking for excuses not to do anything with Wonder -- and there may have been a grain of truth to that. There's some evidence that Gordy was worried that the kid wouldn't be able to sing once his voice broke, and was scared of having another Frankie Lymon on his hands. But the decision was made that rather than put out either of those albums, they would put out a single. The A-side was a song called "I Call it Pretty Music But the Old People Call it the Blues, Part 1", which very much played on Wonder's image as a loveable naive kid: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "I Call it Pretty Music But the Old People Call it the Blues, Part 1"] The B-side, meanwhile, was part two -- a slowed-down, near instrumental, version of the song, reframed as an actual blues, and as a showcase for Wonder's harmonica playing rather than his vocals. The single wasn't a hit, but it made number 101 on the Billboard charts, just missing the Hot One Hundred, which for the debut single of a new artist wasn't too bad, especially for Motown at this point in time, when most of its releases were flopping. That was good enough that Gordy authorised the release of the two albums that they had in the can. The next single, "Little Water Boy", was a rather baffling duet with Clarence Paul, which did nothing at all on the charts. [Excerpt: Clarence Paul and Little Stevie Wonder, "Little Water Boy"] After this came another flop single, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Janie Bradford, before the record that finally broke Little Stevie Wonder out into the mainstream in a big way. While Wonder hadn't had a hit yet, he was sent out on the first Motortown Revue tour, along with almost every other act on the label. Because he hadn't had a hit, he was supposed to only play one song per show, but nobody had told him how long that song should be. He had quickly become a great live performer, and the audiences were excited to watch him, so when he went into extended harmonica solos rather than quickly finishing the song, the audience would be with him. Clarence Paul, who came along on the tour, would have to motion to the onstage bandleader to stop the music, but the bandleader would know that the audiences were with Stevie, and so would just keep the song going as long as Stevie was playing. Often Paul would have to go on to the stage and shout in Wonder's ear to stop playing -- and often Wonder would ignore him, and have to be physically dragged off stage by Paul, still playing, causing the audience to boo Paul for stopping him from playing. Wonder would complain off-stage that the audience had been enjoying it, and didn't seem to get it into his head that he wasn't the star of the show, that the audiences *were* enjoying him, but were *there* to see the Miracles and Mary Wells and the Marvelettes and Marvin Gaye. This made all the acts who had to go on after him, and who were running late as a result, furious at him -- especially since one aspect of Wonder's blindness was that his circadian rhythms weren't regulated by sunlight in the same way that the sighted members of the tour's were. He would often wake up the entire tour bus by playing his harmonica at two or three in the morning, while they were all trying to sleep. Soon Berry Gordy insisted that Clarence Paul be on stage with Wonder throughout his performance, ready to drag him off stage, so that he wouldn't have to come out onto the stage to do it. But one of the first times he had done this had been on one of the very first Motortown Revue shows, before any of his records had come out. There he'd done a performance of "Fingertips", playing the flute part on harmonica rather than only playing bongos throughout as he had on the studio version -- leaving the percussion to Marvin Gaye, who was playing drums for Wonder's set: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] But he'd extended the song with a little bit of call-and-response vocalising: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] After the long performance ended, Clarence Paul dragged Wonder off-stage and the MC asked the audience to give him a round of applause -- but then Stevie came running back on and carried on playing: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] By this point, though, the musicians had started to change over -- Mary Wells, who was on after Wonder, was using different musicians from his, and some of her players were already on stage. You can hear Joe Swift, who was playing bass for Wells, asking what key he was meant to be playing in: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2)"] Eventually, after six and a half minutes, they got Wonder off stage, but that performance became the two sides of Wonder's next single, with "Fingertips Part 2", the part with the ad lib singing and the false ending, rather than the instrumental part one, being labelled as the side the DJs should play. When it was released, the song started a slow climb up the charts, and by August 1963, three months after it came out, it was at number one -- only the second ever Motown number one, and the first ever live single to get there. Not only that, but Motown released a live album -- Recorded Live, the Twelve-Year-Old Genius (though as many people point out he was thirteen when it was released -- he was twelve when it was recorded though) and that made number one on the albums chart, becoming the first Motown album ever to do so. They followed up "Fingertips" with a similar sounding track, "Workout, Stevie, Workout", which made number thirty-three. After that, his albums -- though not yet his singles -- started to be released as by "Stevie Wonder" with no "Little" -- he'd had a bit of a growth spurt and his voice was breaking, and so marketing him as a child prodigy was not going to work much longer and they needed to transition him into a star with adult potential. In the Motown of 1963 that meant cutting an album of standards, because the belief at the time in Motown was that the future for their entertainers was doing show tunes at the Copacabana. But for some reason the audience who had wanted an R&B harmonica instrumental with call-and-response improvised gospel-influenced yelling was not in the mood for a thirteen year old singing "Put on a Happy Face" and "When You Wish Upon a Star", and especially not when the instrumental tracks were recorded in a key that suited him at age twelve but not thirteen, so he was clearly straining. "Fingertips" being a massive hit also meant Stevie was now near the top of the bill on the Motortown Revue when it went on its second tour. But this actually put him in a precarious position. When he had been down at the bottom of the bill and unknown, nobody expected anything from him, and he was following other minor acts, so when he was surprisingly good the audiences went wild. Now, near the top of the bill, he had to go on after Marvin Gaye, and he was not nearly so impressive in that context. The audiences were polite enough, but not in the raptures he was used to. Although Stevie could still beat Gaye in some circumstances. At Motown staff parties, Berry Gordy would always have a contest where he'd pit two artists against each other to see who could win the crowd over, something he thought instilled a fun and useful competitive spirit in his artists. They'd alternate songs, two songs each, and Gordy would decide on the winner based on audience response. For the 1963 Motown Christmas party, it was Stevie versus Marvin. Wonder went first, with "Workout, Stevie, Workout", and was apparently impressive, but then Gaye topped him with a version of "Hitch-Hike". So Stevie had to top that, and apparently did, with a hugely extended version of "I Call it Pretty Music", reworked in the Ray Charles style he'd used for "Fingertips". So Marvin Gaye had to top that with the final song of the contest, and he did, performing "Stubborn Kind of Fellow": [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow"] And he was great. So great, it turned the crowd against him. They started booing, and someone in the audience shouted "Marvin, you should be ashamed of yourself, taking advantage of a little blind kid!" The crowd got so hostile Berry Gordy had to stop the performance and end the party early. He never had another contest like that again. There were other problems, as well. Wonder had been assigned a tutor, a young man named Ted Hull, who began to take serious control over his life. Hull was legally blind, so could teach Wonder using Braille, but unlike Wonder had some sight -- enough that he was even able to get a drivers' license and a co-pilot license for planes. Hull was put in loco parentis on most of Stevie's tours, and soon became basically inseparable from him, but this caused a lot of problems, not least because Hull was a conservative white man, while almost everyone else at Motown was Black, and Stevie was socially liberal and on the side of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam movements. Hull started to collaborate on songwriting with Wonder, which most people at Motown were OK with but which now seems like a serious conflict of interest, and he also started calling himself Stevie's "manager" -- which did *not* impress the people at Motown, who had their own conflict of interest because with Stevie, like with all their artists, they were his management company and agents as well as his record label and publishers. Motown grudgingly tolerated Hull, though, mostly because he was someone they could pass Lula Mae Hardaway to to deal with her complaints. Stevie's mother was not very impressed with the way that Motown were handling her son, and would make her opinion known to anyone who would listen. Hull and Hardaway did not get on at all, but he could be relied on to save the Gordy family members from having to deal with her. Wonder was sent over to Europe for Christmas 1963, to perform shows at the Paris Olympia and do some British media appearances. But both his mother and Hull had come along, and their clear dislike for each other was making him stressed. He started to get pains in his throat whenever he sang -- pains which everyone assumed were a stress reaction to the unhealthy atmosphere that happened whenever Hull and his mother were in the same room together, but which later turned out to be throat nodules that required surgery. Because of this, his singing was generally not up to standard, which meant he was moved to a less prominent place on the bill, which in turn led to his mother accusing the Gordy family of being against him and trying to stop him becoming a star. Wonder started to take her side and believe that Motown were conspiring against him, and at one point he even "accidentally" dropped a bottle of wine on Ted Hull's foot, breaking one of his toes, because he saw Hull as part of the enemy that was Motown. Before leaving for those shows, he had recorded the album he later considered the worst of his career. While he was now just plain Stevie on albums, he wasn't for his single releases, or in his first film appearance, where he was still Little Stevie Wonder. Berry Gordy was already trying to get a foot in the door in Hollywood -- by the end of the decade Motown would be moving from Detroit to LA -- and his first real connections there were with American International Pictures, the low-budget film-makers who have come up a lot in connection with the LA scene. AIP were the producers of the successful low-budget series of beach party films, which combined appearances by teen heartthrobs Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in swimsuits with cameo appearances by old film stars fallen on hard times, and with musical performances by bands like the Bobby Fuller Four. There would be a couple of Motown connections to these films -- most notably, the Supremes would do the theme tune for Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine -- but Muscle Beach Party was to be the first. Most of the music for Muscle Beach Party was written by Brian Wilson, Roger Christian, and Gary Usher, as one might expect for a film about surfing, and was performed by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, the film's major musical guests, with Annette, Frankie, and Donna Loren [pron Lorren] adding vocals, on songs like "Muscle Bustle": [Excerpt: Donna Loren with Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, "Muscle Bustle"] The film followed the formula in every way -- it also had a cameo appearance by Peter Lorre, his last film appearance before his death, and it featured Little Stevie Wonder playing one of the few songs not written by the surf and car writers, a piece of nothing called "Happy Street". Stevie also featured in the follow-up, Bikini Beach, which came out a little under four months later, again doing a single number, "Happy Feelin'". To cash in on his appearances in these films, and having tried releasing albums of Little Stevie as jazz multi-instrumentalist, Ray Charles tribute act, live soulman and Andy Williams-style crooner, they now decided to see if they could sell him as a surf singer. Or at least, as Motown's idea of a surf singer, which meant a lot of songs about the beach and the sea -- mostly old standards like "Red Sails in the Sunset" and "Ebb Tide" -- backed by rather schlocky Wrecking Crew arrangements. And this is as good a place as any to take on one of the bits of disinformation that goes around about Motown. I've addressed this before, but it's worth repeating here in slightly more detail. Carol Kaye, one of the go-to Wrecking Crew bass players, is a known credit thief, and claims to have played on hundreds of records she didn't -- claims which too many people take seriously because she is a genuine pioneer and was for a long time undercredited on many records she *did* play on. In particular, she claims to have played on almost all the classic Motown hits that James Jamerson of the Funk Brothers played on, like the title track for this episode, and she claims this despite evidence including notarised statements from everyone involved in the records, the release of session recordings that show producers talking to the Funk Brothers, and most importantly the evidence of the recordings themselves, which have all the characteristics of the Detroit studio and sound like the Funk Brothers playing, and have absolutely nothing in common, sonically, with the records the Wrecking Crew played on at Gold Star, Western, and other LA studios. The Wrecking Crew *did* play on a lot of Motown records, but with a handful of exceptions, mostly by Brenda Holloway, the records they played on were quickie knock-off album tracks and potboiler albums made to tie in with film or TV work -- soundtracks to TV specials the acts did, and that kind of thing. And in this case, the Wrecking Crew played on the entire Stevie at the Beach album, including the last single to be released as by "Little Stevie Wonder", "Castles in the Sand", which was arranged by Jack Nitzsche: [Excerpt: Little Stevie Wonder, "Castles in the Sand"] Apparently the idea of surfin' Stevie didn't catch on any more than that of swingin' Stevie had earlier. Indeed, throughout 1964 and 65 Motown seem to have had less than no idea what they were doing with Stevie Wonder, and he himself refers to all his recordings from this period as an embarrassment, saving particular scorn for the second single from Stevie at the Beach, "Hey Harmonica Man", possibly because that, unlike most of his other singles around this point, was a minor hit, reaching number twenty-nine on the charts. Motown were still pushing Wonder hard -- he even got an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in May 1964, only the second Motown act to appear on it after the Marvelettes -- but Wonder was getting more and more unhappy with the decisions they were making. He loathed the Stevie at the Beach album -- the records he'd made earlier, while patchy and not things he'd chosen, were at least in some way related to his musical interests. He *did* love jazz, and he *did* love Ray Charles, and he *did* love old standards, and the records were made by his friend Clarence Paul and with the studio musicians he'd grown to know in Detroit. But Stevie at the Beach was something that was imposed on Clarence Paul from above, it was cut with unfamiliar musicians, Stevie thought the films he was appearing in were embarrassing, and he wasn't even having much commercial success, which was the whole point of these compromises. He started to get more rebellious against Paul in the studio, though many of these decisions weren't made by Paul, and he would complain to anyone who would listen that if he was just allowed to do the music he wanted to sing, the way he wanted to sing it, he would have more hits. But for nine months he did basically no singing other than that Ed Sullivan Show appearance -- he had to recover from the operation to remove the throat nodules. When he did return to the studio, the first single he cut remained unreleased, and while some stuff from the archives was released between the start of 1964 and March 1965, the first single he recorded and released after the throat nodules, "Kiss Me Baby", which came out in March, was a complete flop. That single was released to coincide with the first Motown tour of Europe, which we looked at in the episode on "Stop! In the Name of Love", and which was mostly set up to promote the Supremes, but which also featured Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, and the Temptations. Even though Stevie had not had a major hit in eighteen months by this point, he was still brought along on the tour, the only solo artist to be included -- at this point Gordy thought that solo artists looked outdated compared to vocal groups, in a world dominated by bands, and so other solo artists like Marvin Gaye weren't invited. This was a sign that Gordy was happier with Stevie than his recent lack of chart success might suggest. One of the main reasons that Gordy had been in two minds about him was that he'd had no idea if Wonder would still be able to sing well after his voice broke. But now, as he was about to turn fifteen, his adult voice had more or less stabilised, and Gordy knew that he was capable of having a long career, if they just gave him the proper material. But for now his job on the tour was to do his couple of hits, smile, and be on the lower rungs of the ladder. But even that was still a prominent place to be given the scaled-down nature of this bill compared to the Motortown Revues. While the tour was in England, for example, Dusty Springfield presented a TV special focusing on all the acts on the tour, and while the Supremes were the main stars, Stevie got to do two songs, and also took part in the finale, a version of "Mickey's Monkey" led by Smokey Robinson but with all the performers joining in, with Wonder getting a harmonica solo: [Excerpt: Smokey Robinson and the Motown acts, "Mickey's Monkey"] Sadly, there was one aspect of the trip to the UK that was extremely upsetting for Wonder. Almost all the media attention he got -- which was relatively little, as he wasn't a Supreme -- was about his blindness, and one reporter in particular convinced him that there was an operation he could have to restore his sight, but that Motown were preventing him from finding out about it in order to keep his gimmick going. He was devastated about this, and then further devastated when Ted Hull finally convinced him that it wasn't true, and that he'd been lied to. Meanwhile other newspapers were reporting that he *could* see, and that he was just feigning blindness to boost his record sales. After the tour, a live recording of Wonder singing the blues standard "High Heeled Sneakers" was released as a single, and barely made the R&B top thirty, and didn't hit the top forty on the pop charts. Stevie's initial contract with Motown was going to expire in the middle of 1966, so there was a year to get him back to a point where he was having the kind of hits that other Motown acts were regularly getting at this point. Otherwise, it looked like his career might end by the time he was sixteen. The B-side to "High Heeled Sneakers" was another duet with Clarence Paul, who dominates the vocal sound for much of it -- a version of Willie Nelson's country classic "Funny How Time Slips Away": [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder and Clarence Paul, "Funny How Time Slips Away"] There are a few of these duet records scattered through Wonder's early career -- we'll hear another one a little later -- and they're mostly dismissed as Paul trying to muscle his way into a revival of his own recording career as an artist, and there may be some truth in that. But they're also a natural extension of the way the two of them worked in the studio. Motown didn't have the facilities to give Wonder Braille lyric sheets, and Paul didn't trust him to be able to remember the lyrics, so often when they made a record, Paul would be just off-mic, reciting the lyrics to Wonder fractionally ahead of him singing them. So it was more or less natural that this dynamic would leak out onto records, but not everyone saw it that way. But at the same time, there has been some suggestion that Paul was among those manoeuvring to get rid of Wonder from Motown as soon as his contract was finished -- despite the fact that Wonder was the only act Paul had worked on any big hits for. Either way, Paul and Wonder were starting to chafe at working with each other in the studio, and while Paul remained his on-stage musical director, the opportunity to work on Wonder's singles for what would surely be his last few months at Motown was given to Hank Cosby and Sylvia Moy. Cosby was a saxophone player and staff songwriter who had been working with Wonder and Paul for years -- he'd co-written "Fingertips" and several other tracks -- while Moy was a staff songwriter who was working as an apprentice to Cosby. Basically, at this point, nobody else wanted the job of writing for Wonder, and as Moy was having no luck getting songs cut by any other artists and her career was looking about as dead as Wonder's, they started working together. Wonder was, at this point, full of musical ideas but with absolutely no discipline. He's said in interviews that at this point he was writing a hundred and fifty songs a month, but these were often not full songs -- they were fragments, hooks, or a single verse, or a few lines, which he would pass on to Moy, who would turn his ideas into structured songs that fit the Motown hit template, usually with the assistance of Cosby. Then Cosby would come up with an arrangement, and would co-produce with Mickey Stevenson. The first song they came up with in this manner was a sign of how Wonder was looking outside the world of Motown to the rock music that was starting to dominate the US charts -- but which was itself inspired by Motown music. We heard in the last episode on the Rolling Stones how "Nowhere to Run" by the Vandellas: [Excerpt: Martha and the Vandellas, "Nowhere to Run"] had inspired the Stones' "Satisfaction": [Excerpt: The Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"] And Wonder in turn was inspired by "Satisfaction" to come up with his own song -- though again, much of the work making it into an actual finished song was done by Sylvia Moy. They took the four-on-the-floor beat and basic melody of "Satisfaction" and brought it back to Motown, where those things had originated -- though they hadn't originated with Stevie, and this was his first record to sound like a Motown record in the way we think of those things. As a sign of how, despite the way these stories are usually told, the histories of rock and soul were completely and complexly intertwined, that four-on-the-floor beat itself was a conscious attempt by Holland, Dozier, and Holland to appeal to white listeners -- on the grounds that while Black people generally clapped on the backbeat, white people didn't, and so having a four-on-the-floor beat wouldn't throw them off. So Cosby, Moy, and Wonder, in trying to come up with a "Satisfaction" soundalike were Black Motown writers trying to copy a white rock band trying to copy Black Motown writers trying to appeal to a white rock audience. Wonder came up with the basic chorus hook, which was based around a lot of current slang terms he was fond of: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Uptight"] Then Moy, with some assistance from Cosby, filled it out into a full song. Lyrically, it was as close to social comment as Motown had come at this point -- Wonder was, like many of his peers in soul music, interested in the power of popular music to make political statements, and he would become a much more political artist in the next few years, but at this point it's still couched in the acceptable boy-meets-girl romantic love song that Motown specialised in. But in 1965 a story about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks dating a rich girl inevitably raised the idea that the boy and girl might be of different races -- a subject that was very, very, controversial in the mid-sixties. [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Uptight"] "Uptight" made number three on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts, and saved Stevie Wonder's career. And this is where, for all that I've criticised Motown in this episode, their strategy paid off. Mickey Stevenson talked a lot about how in the early sixties Motown didn't give up on artists -- if someone had potential but was not yet having hits or finding the right approach, they would keep putting out singles in a holding pattern, trying different things and seeing what would work, rather than toss them aside. It had already worked for the Temptations and the Supremes, and now it had worked for Stevie Wonder. He would be the last beneficiary of this policy -- soon things would change, and Motown would become increasingly focused on trying to get the maximum returns out of a small number of stars, rather than building careers for a range of artists -- but it paid off brilliantly for Wonder. "Uptight" was such a reinvention of Wonder's career, sound, and image that many of his fans consider it the real start of his career -- everything before it only counting as prologue. The follow-up, "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby", was an "Uptight" soundalike, and as with Motown soundalike follow-ups in general, it didn't do quite as well, but it still made the top twenty on the pop chart and got to number four on the R&B chart. Stevie Wonder was now safe at Motown, and so he was going to do something no other Motown act had ever done before -- he was going to record a protest song and release it as a single. For about a year he'd been ending his shows with a version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", sung as a duet with Clarence Paul, who was still his on stage bandleader even though the two weren't working together in the studio as much. Wonder brought that into the studio, and recorded it with Paul back as the producer, and as his duet partner. Berry Gordy wasn't happy with the choice of single, but Wonder pushed, and Gordy knew that Wonder was on a winning streak and gave in, and so "Blowin' in the Wind" became Stevie Wonder's next single: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder and Clarence Paul, "Blowin' in the Wind"] "Blowin' in the Wind" made the top ten, and number one on the R&B charts, and convinced Gordy that there was some commercial potential in going after the socially aware market, and over the next few years Motown would start putting out more and more political records. Because Motown convention was to have the producer of a hit record produce the next hit for that artist, and keep doing so until they had a flop, Paul was given the opportunity to produce the next single. "A Place in the Sun" was another ambiguously socially-aware song, co-written by the only white writer on Motown staff, Ron Miller, who happened to live in the same building as Stevie's tutor-cum-manager Ted Hull. "A Place in the Sun" was a pleasant enough song, inspired by "A Change is Gonna Come", but with a more watered-down, generic, message of hope, but the record was lifted by Stevie's voice, and again made the top ten. This meant that Paul and Miller, and Miller's writing partner Bryan Mills, got to work on his next two singles -- his 1966 Christmas song "Someday at Christmas", which made number twenty-four, and the ballad "Travellin' Man" which made thirty-two. The downward trajectory with Paul meant that Wonder was soon working with other producers again. Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol cut another Miller and Mills song with him, "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday": [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday"] But that was left in the can, as not good enough to release, and Stevie was soon back working with Cosby. The two of them had come up with an instrumental together in late 1966, but had not been able to come up with any words for it, so they played it for Smokey Robinson, who said their instrumental sounded like circus music, and wrote lyrics about a clown: [Excerpt: The Miracles, "The Tears of a Clown"] The Miracles cut that as album filler, but it was released three years later as a single and became the Miracles' only number one hit with Smokey Robinson as lead singer. So Wonder and Cosby definitely still had their commercial touch, even if their renewed collaboration with Moy, who they started working with again, took a while to find a hit. To start with, Wonder returned to the idea of taking inspiration from a hit by a white British group, as he had with "Uptight". This time it was the Beatles, and the track "Michelle", from the Rubber Soul album: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Michelle"] Wonder took the idea of a song with some French lyrics, and a melody with some similarities to the Beatles song, and came up with "My Cherie Amour", which Cosby and Moy finished off. [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "My Cherie Amour"] Gordy wouldn't allow that to be released, saying it was too close to "Michelle" and people would think it was a rip-off, and it stayed in the vaults for several years. Cosby also produced a version of a song Ron Miller had written with Orlando Murden, "For Once in My Life", which pretty much every other Motown act was recording versions of -- the Four Tops, the Temptations, Billy Eckstine, Martha and the Vandellas and Barbra McNair all cut versions of it in 1967, and Gordy wouldn't let Wonder's version be put out either. So they had to return to the drawing board. But in truth, Stevie Wonder was not the biggest thing worrying Berry Gordy at this point. He was dealing with problems in the Supremes, which we'll look at in a future episode -- they were about to get rid of Florence Ballard, and thus possibly destroy one of the biggest acts in the world, but Gordy thought that if they *didn't* get rid of her they would be destroying themselves even more certainly. Not only that, but Gordy was in the midst of a secret affair with Diana Ross, Holland, Dozier, and Holland were getting restless about their contracts, and his producers kept bringing him unlistenable garbage that would never be a hit. Like Norman Whitfield, insisting that this track he'd cut with Marvin Gaye, "I Heard it Through the Grapevine", should be a single. Gordy had put his foot down about that one too, just like he had about "My Cherie Amour", and wouldn't allow it to be released. Meanwhile, many of the smaller acts on the label were starting to feel like they were being ignored by Gordy, and had formed what amounted to a union, having regular meetings at Clarence Paul's house to discuss how they could pressure the label to put the same effort into their careers as into those of the big stars. And the Funk Brothers, the musicians who played on all of Motown's hits, were also getting restless -- they contributed to the arrangements, and they did more for the sound of the records than half the credited producers; why weren't they getting production credits and royalties? Harvey Fuqua had divorced Gordy's sister Gwen, and so became persona non grata at the label and was in the process of leaving Motown, and so was Mickey Stevenson, Gordy's second in command, because Gordy wouldn't give him any stock in the company. And Detroit itself was on edge. The crime rate in the city had started to go up, but even worse, the *perception* of crime was going up. The Detroit News had been running a campaign to whip up fear, which it called its Secret Witness campaign, and running constant headlines about rapes, murders, and muggings. These in turn had led to increased calls for more funds for the police, calls which inevitably contained a strong racial element and at least implicitly linked the perceived rise in crime to the ongoing Civil Rights movement. At this point the police in Detroit were ninety-three percent white, even though Detroit's population was over thirty percent Black. The Mayor and Police Commissioner were trying to bring in some modest reforms, but they weren't going anywhere near fast enough for the Black population who felt harassed and attacked by the police, but were still going too fast for the white people who were being whipped up into a state of terror about supposedly soft-on-crime policies, and for the police who felt under siege and betrayed by the politicians. And this wasn't the only problem affecting the city, and especially affecting Black people. Redlining and underfunded housing projects meant that the large Black population was being crammed into smaller and smaller spaces with fewer local amenities. A few Black people who were lucky enough to become rich -- many of them associated with Motown -- were able to move into majority-white areas, but that was just leading to white flight, and to an increase in racial tensions. The police were on edge after the murder of George Overman Jr, the son of a policeman, and though they arrested the killers that was just another sign that they weren't being shown enough respect. They started organising "blu flu"s -- the police weren't allowed to strike, so they'd claim en masse that they were off sick, as a protest against the supposed soft-on-crime administration. Meanwhile John Sinclair was organising "love-ins", gatherings of hippies at which new bands like the MC5 played, which were being invaded by gangs of bikers who were there to beat up the hippies. And the Detroit auto industry was on its knees -- working conditions had got bad enough that the mostly Black workforce organised a series of wildcat strikes. All in all, Detroit was looking less and less like somewhere that Berry Gordy wanted to stay, and the small LA subsidiary of Motown was rapidly becoming, in his head if nowhere else, the more important part of the company, and its future. He was starting to think that maybe he should leave all these ungrateful people behind in their dangerous city, and move the parts of the operation that actually mattered out to Hollywood. Stevie Wonder was, of course, one of the parts that mattered, but the pressure was on in 1967 to come up with a hit as big as his records from 1965 and early 66, before he'd been sidetracked down the ballad route. The song that was eventually released was one on which Stevie's mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, had a co-writing credit: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] "I Was Made to Love Her" was inspired by Wonder's first love, a girl from the same housing projects as him, and he talked about the song being special to him because it was true, saying it "kind of speaks of my first love to a girl named Angie, who was a very beautiful woman... Actually, she was my third girlfriend but my first love. I used to call Angie up and, like, we would talk and say, 'I love you, I love you,' and we'd talk and we'd both go to sleep on the phone. And this was like from Detroit to California, right? You know, mother said, 'Boy, what you doing - get off the phone!' Boy, I tell you, it was ridiculous." But while it was inspired by her, like with many of the songs from this period, much of the lyric came from Moy -- her mother grew up in Arkansas, and that's why the lyric started "I was born in Little Rock", as *her* inspiration came from stories told by her parents. But truth be told, the lyrics weren't particularly detailed or impressive, just a standard story of young love. Rather what mattered in the record was the music. The song was structured differently from many Motown records, including most of Wonder's earlier ones. Most Motown records had a huge amount of dynamic variation, and a clear demarcation between verse and chorus. Even a record like "Dancing in the Street", which took most of its power from the tension and release caused by spending most of the track on one chord, had the release that came with the line "All we need is music", and could be clearly subdivided into different sections. "I Was Made to Love Her" wasn't like that. There was a tiny section which functioned as a middle eight -- and which cover versions like the one by the Beach Boys later that year tend to cut out, because it disrupts the song's flow: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] But other than that, the song has no verse or chorus, no distinct sections, it's just a series of lyrical couplets over the same four chords, repeating over and over, an incessant groove that could really go on indefinitely: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] This is as close as Motown had come at this point to the new genre of funk, of records that were just staying with one groove throughout. It wasn't a funk record, not yet -- it was still a pop-soul record, But what made it extraordinary was the bass line, and this is why I had to emphasise earlier that this was a record by the Funk Brothers, not the Wrecking Crew, no matter how much some Crew members may claim otherwise. As on most of Cosby's sessions, James Jamerson was given free reign to come up with his own part with little guidance, and what he came up with is extraordinary. This was at a time when rock and pop basslines were becoming a little more mobile, thanks to the influence of Jamerson in Detroit, Brian Wilson in LA, and Paul McCartney in London. But for the most part, even those bass parts had been fairly straightforward technically -- often inventive, but usually just crotchets and quavers, still keeping rhythm along with the drums rather than in dialogue with them, roaming free rhythmically. Jamerson had started to change his approach, inspired by the change in studio equipment. Motown had upgraded to eight-track recording in 1965, and once he'd become aware of the possibilities, and of the greater prominence that his bass parts could have if they were recorded on their own track, Jamerson had become a much busier player. Jamerson was a jazz musician by inclination, and so would have been very aware of John Coltrane's legendary "sheets of sound", in which Coltrane would play fast arpeggios and scales, in clusters of five and seven notes, usually in semiquaver runs (though sometimes in even smaller fractions -- his solo in Miles Davis' "Straight, No Chaser" is mostly semiquavers but has a short passage in hemidemisemiquavers): [Excerpt: Miles Davis, "Straight, No Chaser"] Jamerson started to adapt the "sheets of sound" style to bass playing, treating the bass almost as a jazz solo instrument -- though unlike Coltrane he was also very, very concerned with creating something that people could tap their feet to. Much like James Brown, Jamerson was taking jazz techniques and repurposing them for dance music. The most notable example of that up to this point had been in the Four Tops' "Bernadette", where there are a few scuffling semiquaver runs thrown in, and which is a much more fluid part than most of his playing previously: [Excerpt: The Four Tops, "Bernadette"] But on "Bernadette", Jamerson had been limited by Holland, Dozier, and Holland, who liked him to improvise but around a framework they created. Cosby, on the other hand, because he had been a Funk Brother himself, was much more aware of the musicians' improvisational abilities, and would largely give them a free hand. This led to a truly remarkable bass part on "I Was Made to Love Her", which is somewhat buried in the single mix, but Marcus Miller did an isolated recreation of the part for the accompanying CD to a book on Jamerson, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, and listening to that you can hear just how inventive it is: [Excerpt: Marcus Miller, "I Was Made to Love Her"] This was exciting stuff -- though much less so for the touring musicians who went on the road with the Motown revues while Jamerson largely stayed in Detroit recording. Jamerson's family would later talk about him coming home grumbling because complaints from the touring musicians had been brought to him, and he'd been asked to play less difficult parts so they'd find it easier to replicate them on stage. "I Was Made to Love Her" wouldn't exist without Stevie Wonder, Hank Cosby, Sylvia Moy, or Lula Mae Hardaway, but it's James Jamerson's record through and through: [Excerpt: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made to Love Her"] It went to number two on the charts, sat between "Light My Fire" at number one, and "All You Need is Love" at number three, with the Beatles song soon to overtake it and make number one itself. But within a few weeks of "I Was Made to Love Her" reaching its chart peak, things in Detroit would change irrevocably. On the 23rd of July, the police busted an illegal drinking den. They thought they were only going to get about twenty-five people there, but there turned out to be a big party on. They tried to arrest seventy-four people, but their wagon wouldn't fit them all in so they had to call reinforcements and make the arrestees wait around til more wagons arrived. A crowd of hundreds gathered while they were waiting. Someone threw a brick at a squad car window, a rumour went round that the police had bayonetted someone, and soon the city was in flames. Riots lasted for days, with people burning down and looting businesses, but what really made the situation bad was the police's overreaction. They basically started shooting at young Black men, using them as target practice, and later claiming they were snipers, arsonists, and looters -- but there were cases like the Algiers Motel incident, where the police raided a motel where several Black men, including the members of the soul group The Dramatics, were hiding out along with a few white women. The police sexually assaulted the women, and then killed three of the men for associating with white women, in what was described as a "lynching with bullets". The policemen in question were later acquitted of all charges. The National Guard were called in, as were Federal troops -- the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne from Clarksville, the division in which Jimi Hendrix had recently served. After four days of rioting, one of the bloodiest riots in US history was at an end, with forty-three people dead (of whom thirty-three were Black and only one was a policeman). Official counts had 1,189 people injured, and over 7,200 arrests, almost all of them of Black people. A lot of the histories written later say that Black-owned businesses were spared during the riots, but that wasn't really the case. For example, Joe's Record Shop, owned by Joe Von Battle, who had put out the first records by C.L. Franklin and his daughter Aretha, was burned down, destroying not only the stock of records for sale but the master tapes of hundreds of recordings of Black artists, many of them unreleased and so now lost forever. John Lee Hooker, one of the artists whose music Von Battle had released, soon put out a song, "The Motor City is Burning", about the events: [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "The Motor City is Burning"] But one business that did remain unburned was Motown, with the Hitsville studio going untouched by flames and unlooted. Motown legend has this being down to the rioters showing respect for the studio that had done so much for Detroit, but it seems likely to have just been luck. Although Motown wasn't completely unscathed -- a National Guard tank fired a shell through the building, leaving a gigantic hole, which Berry Gordy saw as soon as he got back from a business trip he'd been on during the rioting. That was what made Berry Gordy decide once and for all that things needed to change. Motown owned a whole row of houses near the studio, which they used as additional office space and for everything other than the core business of making records. Gordy immediately started to sell them, and move the admin work into temporary rented space. He hadn't announced it yet, and it would be a few years before the move was complete, but from that moment on, the die was cast. Motown was going to leave Detroit and move to Hollywood.
Ric Flair drops the NWA title to Ron Garvin in a shocking end to the episode! We'll also see Mike Rotunda as the Florida Heavyweight Champion, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, and The Warlord. Plus, Kevin Sullivan's debut, The Midnight Express defend the NWA US titles against Nikita Koloff & Barry Windham, The Sheepherders debut with Johnny Ace and much more! Support us on Patreon, get this show early and ad free, plus TONS of BONUS content: patreon.com/WHWMonday Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/WHWMonday Check out all the new cool merchandise at BoxOfGimmicks.com Buy a shirt at LoisRules.com Subscribe to our YouTube channel: youtube.com/whw Save thousands at Savewithconrad.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices
In this episode of Rock is Lit, I'm thrilled to welcome novelist, playwright, visual artist, and songwriter Jeff Jackson, author of the novel 'Destroy All Monsters: The Last Rock Novel', which centers around the killing of bands as they perform on stage by members of their own audience. Later, Nathan D. Duvall, host of the Lucid show on 103.3 Asheville FM, joins the podcast to talk about real-world examples when this kind of violence has erupted at live shows. Highlights:Jeff and I talk about some amazing musicians/bands, including Wire, The Raincoats, Throbbing Gristle, Dog Faced Hermans, Destroyer, Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, Suede, The Smiths, Johnny Ace, Fugazi, The Beatles, Pavement, and Robert Johnson.Jeff and I discuss what makes a good rock novel and list some examples, including 'Paint It Black' by Janet Fitch, 'Black Card' by Chris L. Terry, 'The Ruins' by Mat Osman, and my own rock novel 'Searching for Jimmy Page'. Additional topics Jeff and I cover include the style and narrative of Jeff's book 'Destroy All Monsters: The Last Rock Novel'; the link between violence and music; fandom and obsession; the primal nature of music; mythology surrounding certain musicians; the diminishing power of music in the culture; Jeff's band Julian Calendar.For more examples of Jeff's favorite rock novels and for a bonus interview with Jeff about Julian Calendar's political songs, bop on over to the Rock is Lit Vault.Nathan and I talk about real-world historical precedent for the fictional premise of Jeff's novel, fans attacking musicians as they perform on stage, and give some examples, including the murder of Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and Damagebag.Songs played during the episode in order of appearance:"Keep Your Laws Off My Body" by Dog Faced Hermans"Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace"Blue Boys" by Julian Calendar"In Your Love" by Julian CalendarContacts:Jeff Jackson's website, http://deathofliterature.com/Jeff Jackson Instagram, @deathofliteratureJeff Jackson Twitter, @DeathofLitJulian Calendar at Bandcamp, https://juliancalendar.bandcamp.com/My review of 'Destroy All Monsters' in 'North Carolina Literary Review'Nathan D. Duvall's Lucid show, https://www.ashevillefm.org/show/lucid/Nathan D. Duvall Facebook, @nathan.duvall1Christy Alexander Hallberg website, christyalexanderhallberg.comChristy Alexander Hallberg Instagram, @christyhallbergChristy Alexander Hallberg Twitter, @ChristyHallbergChristy Alexander Hallberg YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/christyhallbergRock is Lit Vault
This week John Poz's TMPT welcomes into the show for the flagship episode, former WWE tag team champion, Doug Basham. The former OVW World and Tag Team Champion joins the show to talk about his entire professional wrestling career. Host John Poz and Doug talk about his breaking into the business, OVW, Al Snow, Danny Davis, WWE, Vince McMahon, The Basham Brothers, S&M gimmick, JBL, the Cabinet, his WWE release, Johnny Ace, and so much more.PlayActionPools.com has launched as the newest Sports Pool Hosting Platform. PlayAction is your spot for all your football contest needs. Go to PlayActionPools.com today!https://playaction.pub/tmptStore - Teepublic.com/stores/TMPTFollow us @TwoManPowerTrip on Twitter and IG
On Today's Episode: We discuss HHH's new regime changes, CM Punk's big return on Dynamite, Ric flair's 2nd to last match, and why the Honky Tonk man should go away. Call the LLW Hotline and leave us a message!!! 201-574-7222 Follow us! Twitter https://twitter.com/loserleavespod Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/loserleaveswrestling Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LoserLeavesWrestling
Tick Tock! It's time to get RAW! It's time to get DOWN! It's time for the RawDown! This week the boys look at the Return of Karrion Kross! What does this mean for the WWE Undisputed Universal Title! Also, the Womens tag title tournament has begun! Finally, who won the United States title, Ciampa or Bobby Lashley. Check out the number one source of all things WWE right here at the Turnbuckle Tavern!
Meelz & Justin are joined by Hall of Fame Tier Patron Bri Bosa to talk about HHH's first two weeks in the creative office at WWE, what our patrons think about him and who he'll be bringing back. On No Holds Barred, the hosts talk about Johnny Ace's quiet exit from the company, Sasha Banks & Naomi possibly returning, and why Justin thinks Johnny Gargano is the smartest free agent in Wrestling. On show reviews -- the hosts and Bri talk about Karrion Kross' shocking return on Smackdown, and why people should stop being worried, and on RAW they talk about the mystery of Dexter Lumis' return, Bayley running the show, and Seth Rollins & Riddle needing to turn up the heat in their feud.
Host the Man they call "Meathead" has joining him once again the lovely Linda Kay to talk about the marriage of Tay Conti and Sammy Guevara, John Laurentius officially gone from WWE? plus a recap of a very "kabuki" episode of Raw from last night and more for Tuesday August 9th 2022 https://store.collarandelbowbrand.com promo code "LindaKay" will save you 10%!
August 7th-Birthday weekend depression-People using economic anxiety not give a shit about social issues-Kevin Federline discrediting Britney Spears-Alt Media limiting narratives-FBI vs Right Wing staged problems-More Gay Panic by right wing -some rapper discourse-Pete Davidson Kim Kardashian break up-Wrestling discourse about high risk-concussion storylines-Dax vs Meltzer-Sasha Banks clone-Later on August 7th-Dane Cook marriage discourse-More ways for right wing to make it seem FBI targeting them-Fly Out discourse -More Vince stories-Ric Flair Carlos Colon- Thoughts on the Luger doc-August 8Th more birthday depression- Nathan Fielder the Rehearsal discourse-John Oliver monkeypox coverage-Bill Maher being a try hard-Texas Church doing their own homophobic Hamilton play-What is Dark Brandon? Johnny Ace fired and other wrestling discourse-Then recaps of Impact Smackdown Rampage and Battle of the Belts
Trending in the News: Vince McMahon, Stephanie Mcmahon, Triple H, Bruce Prichard, AEW New TV Show? WOW getting new TV deal?Starrcast V , Ric Flair Last Match, Johnny Ace, Rumors, Injuries and so much more! Follow @MikeFreland on Twitter
This week, Taking To You To School with Dr. Tom Prichard focuses on the Vince McMahon retirement plus more fan questions! Dr Tom and co-host John Poz take a dive deep into Vince McMahon's current troubles, WWE Stock, Bruce Prichard, Ric Flair, Kevin Dunn, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, Michael Hayes, Johnny Ace, plus NWA, JPWA, AEW, and so much more!
Host the Man they call "Meathead" has joining him once again the lovely Linda kay to talk all the big news bits form just the last 3 days with Vince McMahon, Triple H, Johnny Ace, ROH PPV news with Tully Blanchard, Johnathon Grisham plus news from Smackdown with Brock Lesnar and MUCH MUCH more for Monday July 25th 2022 https://store.collarandelbowbrand.com promo code "LindaKay" will save you 10%!
Episode 174 of No One's Ready For Wrestling discusses Santana being forced to relinquish a title due to an injury as he's scheduled for knee surgery. AQA announces that she's stepping away from pro wrestling and Booker T reaction to her announcement. Jade Cargill deletes her Twitter account, but what could be the reason why? Kenny Omega reportedly set for a return in AEW and possibly setting up for a match at All Out this year. Britt Baker gives an update on the injury status of Adam Cole. Cole Karter (FKA Two Dimes in NXT) went from swimming with the fishes to swimming with the sharks in AEW. An overbooked main event on Dynamite. Thoughts on Night 1 to 3 of the G1 Climax. ROH Death Before Dishonor predictions. Ric Flair's final opponent revealed for his last match show. What is WWE's expectation for Logan Paul now that he's signed with WWE? Tiffany Stratton didn't expect to make her NXT debut that quickly. UFC Legend Daniel Cormier revealed that he's in talks with WWE. How much tickets did the WWE sold for Clash At The Castle? Cody Rhodes wins ESPY Award for best WWE moment and Seth Rollins' reaction to it. Johnny Ace is out of WWE as head of talent relations and Triple H is back as the new Head of Talent Relations. Reactions to that move and why it's the best move to make? In one of what could possibly be the biggest story in wrestling in 2022, Vince McMahon officially announces his retirement as the CEO & Chairman of WWE! Who is the new CEO of the company and backstage reactions to this announcement? Talk of Brock Lesnar leaving SmackDown after hearing that Vince retired and the "supposed" rumored backup plan if he didn't show up for SummerSlam. My take on Vince McMahon retiring from ALL of his positions in the company. Logan Paul vs The Miz is official at SummerSlam. Shino rants on a pointless 6 women tag team match on RAW. Cora Jade tosses the NXT Women's Tag Team Championship in the trash and how her promo elevated her as the new top heel in the women's division in NXT right now. GYV officially get new names as part of Joe Gacy's Schism. Zoey Stark returns and wins the battle royal in the main event and why it was the right decision in my opinion? Sofia Cromwell makes her main roster debut as Maxxine Dupri. Finally, A rap battle on AEW Rampage between Max Caster & Austin Gunn. All this and so much more RIGHT HERE on No One's Ready For Wrestling!!!!! --- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/shinodphoenix/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/shinodphoenix/support
DragonKingKarl A-Z of pro wrestling history series continues by looking at The Franchise of ECW- Shane Douglas. Shane Douglas started out in the 1980s in the later days of the territories. Trained by Killer Kowalski alongside Mick Foley, Douglas broke out in Bill Watts' UWF territory and later Continental before landing in WCW and part of the ill fated Dynamic Dudes tag team with Johnny Ace and a tag team title reign with Ricky Steamboat. But it wasn't until throwing down the NWA World title and the counter-culture ECW rose to prominence that Shane Douglas found his true calling. This episode we discuss the career of Shane Douglas.
In this candid Interview, Mike Freland sits down with former WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio to discuss life, wrestling, relationships, John Cena, Vince McMahon, Johnny Ace, being the WWE Champion, his family and the legacy he hopes to leave on this business. Follow @MikeFreland on Twitter
The biggest names in Hollywood and Broadway recorded for AFRS during the war years, The American Forces Network can trace its origins back to May 26, 1942, when the War Department established the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). The U.S. Army began broadcasting from London during World War II, using equipment and studio facilities borrowed from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). The first transmission to U.S. troops began at 5:45 p.m. on July 4, 1943, and included less than five hours of recorded shows, a BBC news and sports broadcast. That day, Corporal Syl Binkin became the first U.S. Military broadcasters heard over the air. The signal was sent from London via telephone lines to five regional transmitters to reach U.S. troops in the United Kingdom as they prepared for the inevitable invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. Fearing competition for civilian audiences the BBC initially tried to impose restrictions on AFN broadcasts within Britain (transmissions were only allowed from American Bases outside London and were limited to 50 watts of transmission power) and a minimum quota of British produced programming had to be carried. Nevertheless AFN programmes were widely enjoyed by the British civilian listeners who could receive them and once AFN operations transferred to continental Europe (shortly after D-Day) AFN were able to broadcast with little restriction with programmes available to civilian audiences across most of Europe (including Britain) after dark. As D-Day approached, the network joined with the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to develop programs especially for the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Mobile stations, complete with personnel, broadcasting equipment, and a record library were deployed to broadcast music and news to troops in the field. The mobile stations reported on front line activities and fed the news reports back to studio locations in London. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Entertainment Radio Stations Live 24/7 Sherlock Holmes/CBS Radio Mystery Theater https://live365.com/station/Sherlock-Holmes-Classic-Radio--a91441 https://live365.com/station/CBS-Radio-Mystery-Theater-a57491 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
PART ONE:Paul and Scott chat about the canonical playlist that's part of every Independence Day fireworks display, the time Scott accidentally hit Lee Greenwood in the face with a water balloon, and how our Patreon supporters can get the chance to get their hands on one of the very first copies of Dave Alvin's forthcoming book New Highway. PART TWO:Our in-depth interview with "Fourth of July" composer Dave Alvin on the Fourth of July! ABOUT DAVE ALVIN:Grammy-winning artist, musician, songwriter, poet, and roots music pioneer Dave Alvin launched his professional career when he and his brother Phil founded the Downey, California, based group The Blasters. Blending rockabilly and R&B, Dave became the band's primary songwriter, penning classics such as “Marie, Marie,” “American Music,” “Border Radio,” “Jubilee Train,” “Little Honey,” “Dark Night,” and “Long White Cadillac,” which later became a Top 40 country hit for Dwight Yoakam. After a brief stint as a member of the band X, Dave launched a solo career and continued to craft critically-acclaimed songs that defy genre, including “Fourth of July,” “Haley's Comet,” “Dry River,” “King of California,” “Abilene,” “Ashgrove,” “Harlan County Line,” “Johnny Ace is Dead,” and “Downey to Lubbock,” a collaboration with Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Dave's songs have been covered by Los Lobos, Little Milton, Buckwheat Zydeko, Shakin' Stevens, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry, and others. Additionally, his music has been featured on a number of TV soundtracks, including Justified and The Sopranos.
For today's episode as part of the Creative Control Network, on The Business of the Business podcast we focus on The BIG NEWS of the week as we run through a lot of the top news stories including Vince McMahon, Johnny Ace, Ric Flair, Impact, GCW, NJPW, Jeff Hardy, F1ST, WWA, and so much more!
Get Jon Moxley's book, narrated by Moxley himself, FREE when you use http://www.audibletrial.com/solomonster to sign up for a 30-day Audible trial!Solomonster has final predictions for the AEW Forbidden Door PPV, a show that maybe should have STAYED forbidden as the cursed card continues to change following a rash of injuries. He also discusses what Tony Khan did that greatly upset Jon Moxley, and Orange Cassidy's new theme music that AEW just secured the rights to use... John Laurinaitis OUT as head of talent relations in WWE, at least temporarily, while Bruce Prichard replaces him while still maintaining all of his other creative duties and Vince McMahon continues to randomly appear on television like nothing is wrong... Triple H makes a surprise trip to Orlando and tells the folks down there that he's "back", leaving everyone wondering what that actually means... Tammy Sytch loses her lawyer after the court grants his request to no longer represent her because even he wants nothing to do with her... and thoughts on the 15 year anniversary of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide.***Follow Solomonster on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/solomonsterSubscribe to the Solomonster Sounds Off on YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/user/TheSolomonster?sub_confirmation=1Become a Solomonster Sounds Off Channel Member:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9jcg7mk93fGNqWPMfl_Aig/join
What's good Wrasslin fans!!! We are BACK!!!!! Season 6, episode 2 of the Hot Take Wrestling Podcast is now in full effect! We got together on this episode to discuss in depth Randy Orton's back injury, Vince McMahon and Johnny Ace allegations, Stephanie becoming the interim CEO as a result, and Impact Wrestling's Slammiversary card... --- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/hottakewrestling/message
What's good Wrasslin fans!!! We are BACK!!!!! Season 6, episode 2 of the Hot Take Wrestling Podcast is now in full effect! We got together on this episode to discuss in depth Randy Orton's back injury, Vince McMahon and Johnny Ace allegations, Stephanie becoming the interim CEO as a result, and Impact Wrestling's Slammiversary card...
It's Friday, and you know what that means! Jordan and Andrew are back to talk all things All Elite! On this episode, the guys preview Forbidden Door. Where's Okada? Will Danielson go? Why is this door SO forbidden? They manage to avoid the injury bug as they discuss all the main players on Dynamite, hype up Blood and Guts and BEG YOU to watch Rampage (it's good!) They also leave all the gross mental images of a 76 year old man having sex with a paralegal to the WWE news shows, but do wonder if Johnny Ace's door is the most forbidden of them all! So get your popcorn, like and subscribe, and order Forbidden Door after you take a listen to this episode!
On this episode of The Still Real to Us Show, Jeff & Dr. Trey Franklin:-- Discuss Vince McMahon stepping down as CEO temporarily as Stephanie McMahin is named the new Interim CEO-- Bruce Prichard being named the Interim Head of Talent Relations with Johnny Ace on Administrative Leave-- Triple H resuming his duties at the WWE Performance Center and we try to understand what that exactly means-- If the Forbidden Door card is what we expected when the show was announced several months ago-- And we preview & predict "AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door"
What it do my peoples! We talk about the WWE Hypocrisy at work in the latest case of Vince & Johnny Ace spending money for the opposite sexes "favor." Solve those ENigmas. --- This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app --- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/enigmasunc/message
Well, looks like we have a bit of wrestling content to get to... Vince and Johnny Ace have gotten into some hot water by being scumbags, and we're gonna discuss it. When we recorded this episode, no action had been taken... well, since then, a few things have happened. Look for part 2 soon to discuss that!
Special BONUS edition of the KLB as D and Draven discuss the recent happenings in wrestling INCLUDING Forbidden Door being an overpriced house show, the return of Brock Lesnar, again, Matt Riddle's time in the sun, Vince McMahon and Johnny Ace allegedly exchanging paralegal partners, and a tribute to the passing of referees Dave Hebner and Tim White.
Help Don West in his fight against lymphoma Vince and Johnny Ace in a threesome (?), Stephanie takes over, Jeff Hardy gets another DUI, AEW wellness policy, TNA at 20 Bryant on twitter and IG: @brysports Bryant on Tik Tok: @stanleyjackson23 Britt twitter: @BrittWhitmire Britt IG: @bdub4reelz Show twitter: @KatieVickAlive --- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/katie-vick/support
- the wrestling "journalists"- Vince McMahon gets caught up using WWE money to fund secret relationship(s)- Jail? - filed complaints against Vince and Johnny Laurentius from other women.- Johnny Ace cheating on Nikki Bellas mom- Jeff Hardy DUI- Jake Atlas gone from AEW- Xfinity pulls free Peacock- Who will be CEO for WWE? 凸(⊙▂⊙✖ ) SUPPORT US ON PATREON:https://www.patreon.com/wrestlingsoup...SOCIAL CHANNELS ʕ̡̢̡ʘ̅͟͜͡ʘ̲̅ʔ̢̡̢Twitter: https://twitter.com/WrestlingSoupInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/wrestlingsoup/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WrestlingSoup/Discord Channel: https://discord.gg/wrestlingsoup
Better late than never! Vince McMahon got into some stuff, as did Johnny Ace. Plus, your emails! Special thanks to the DDT Wrestling Patreon members: Nate, Simon, Jeremy, Glenn, and Brandon! We are grateful for your support! Email DDT Podcast! Visit the DDT Wrestling Website! Support DDT Wrestling on Patreon! Buy DDT Wrestling Merch! Check out our podcast host, Pinecast. Start your own podcast for free with no credit card required. If you decide to upgrade, use coupon code r-7287e6 for 40% off for 4 months, and support DDT Wrestling.
Jon kicks off the final hour of this Thursday edition of the Jon Chuckery Show with the Falcons Flyover. On this edition of the Falcons Flyover, Jon talks about the Atlanta Falcons making a couple of minor roster changes, if Arthur Smith will prove he's an upper tier play caller this year, and finally Chuck ends this edition of the Falcon Flyover by letting you hear from Arthur Smith, Marcus Mariota, and Kyle Pitts as the Falcons wrap up OTAs. Next, Jon continues the final hour of this Thursday edition of The Jon Chuckery Show by talking about which Atlanta Braves should be All-Stars. Finally, Jon closes out this Thursday edition of The Jon Chuckery Show by discussing Vince McMahon potentially paying off a mistress at the cost of 3 million dollars, and Johnny Ace might've been involved as well. Jon closes out the show as he always does with the Love TKO!
The fellas are back again to discuss all things wrestling. They kick it off with special guest Spice as she discusses the Black Girl Magic event coming up (3:54). After that NJPW invades Dynamite (29:35). Then the issues involving Jeff Hardy (44:40). Then they talk about Vince and Johnny Ace investigation (1:05:50) and NXT (1:19:00). The show closes with talks about the NBA Finals (1:32:00).Intro: Juvenile - U Understand | https://youtu.be/rJwPjpI__PMOutro: Drake - You Only Live Twice ft. Rick Ross & Lil Wayne | https://youtu.be/x6Nr6EX3AwY
The fellas are back again to discuss all things wrestling. They kick it off with special guest Spice as she discusses the Black Girl Magic event coming up (3:54). After that NJPW invades Dynamite (29:35). Then the issues involving Jeff Hardy (44:40). Then they talk about Vince and Johnny Ace investigation (1:05:50) and NXT (1:19:00). The show closes with talks about the NBA Finals (1:32:00). Intro: Juvenile - U Understand | https://youtu.be/rJwPjpI__PM Outro: Drake - You Only Live Twice ft. Rick Ross & Lil Wayne | https://youtu.be/x6Nr6EX3AwY
Episode 149 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Respect", and the journey of Aretha Franklin from teenage gospel singer to the Queen of Soul. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "I'm Just a Mops" by the Mops. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Also, people may be interested in a Facebook discussion group for the podcast, run by a friend of mine (I'm not on FB myself) which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/293630102611672/ Errata I say "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby to a Dixie Melody" instead of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody". Also I say Spooner Oldham co-wrote "Do Right Woman". I meant Chips Moman. Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by Aretha Franklin. My main biographical source for Aretha Franklin is Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz, and this is where most of the quotes from musicians come from. I also relied heavily on I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You by Matt Dobkin. Information on C.L. Franklin came from Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America by Nick Salvatore. Rick Hall's The Man From Muscle Shoals: My Journey from Shame to Fame contains his side of the story. Country Soul by Charles L Hughes is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties. Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom is possibly less essential, but still definitely worth reading. And the I Never Loved a Man album is available in this five-album box set for a ludicrously cheap price. But it's actually worth getting this nineteen-CD set with her first sixteen Atlantic albums and a couple of bonus discs of demos and outtakes. There's barely a duff track in the whole nineteen discs. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start this episode, I have to say that there are some things people may want to be aware of before listening to this. This episode has to deal, at least in passing, with subjects including child sexual abuse, intimate partner abuse, racism, and misogyny. I will of course try to deal with those subjects as tactfully as possible, but those of you who may be upset by those topics may want to check the episode transcript before or instead of listening. Those of you who leave comments or send me messages saying "why can't you just talk about the music instead of all this woke virtue-signalling?" may also want to skip this episode. You can go ahead and skip all the future ones as well, I won't mind. And one more thing to say before I get into the meat of the episode -- this episode puts me in a more difficult position than most other episodes of the podcast have. When I've talked about awful things that have happened in the course of this podcast previously, I have either been talking about perpetrators -- people like Phil Spector or Jerry Lee Lewis who did truly reprehensible things -- or about victims who have talked very publicly about the abuse they've suffered, people like Ronnie Spector or Tina Turner, who said very clearly "this is what happened to me and I want it on the public record". In the case of Aretha Franklin, she has been portrayed as a victim *by others*, and there are things that have been said about her life and her relationships which suggest that she suffered in some very terrible ways. But she herself apparently never saw herself as a victim, and didn't want some aspects of her private life talking about. At the start of David Ritz's biography of her, which is one of my main sources here, he recounts a conversation he had with her: "When I mentioned the possibility of my writing an independent biography, she said, “As long as I can approve it before it's published.” “Then it wouldn't be independent,” I said. “Why should it be independent?” “So I can tell the story from my point of view.” “But it's not your story, it's mine.” “You're an important historical figure, Aretha. Others will inevitably come along to tell your story. That's the blessing and burden of being a public figure.” “More burden than blessing,” she said." Now, Aretha Franklin is sadly dead, but I think that she still deserves the basic respect of being allowed privacy. So I will talk here about public matters, things she acknowledged in her own autobiography, and things that she and the people around her did in public situations like recording studios and concert venues. But there are aspects to the story of Aretha Franklin as that story is commonly told, which may well be true, but are of mostly prurient interest, don't add much to the story of how the music came to be made, and which she herself didn't want people talking about. So there will be things people might expect me to talk about in this episode, incidents where people in her life, usually men, treated her badly, that I'm going to leave out. That information is out there if people want to look for it, but I don't see myself as under any obligation to share it. That's not me making excuses for people who did inexcusable things, that's me showing some respect to one of the towering artistic figures of the latter half of the twentieth century. Because, of course, respect is what this is all about: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Respect"] One name that's come up a few times in this podcast, but who we haven't really talked about that much, is Bobby "Blue" Bland. We mentioned him as the single biggest influence on the style of Van Morrison, but Bland was an important figure in the Memphis music scene of the early fifties, which we talked about in several early episodes. He was one of the Beale Streeters, the loose aggregation of musicians that also included B.B. King and Johnny Ace, he worked with Ike Turner, and was one of the key links between blues and soul in the fifties and early sixties, with records like "Turn on Your Love Light": [Excerpt: Bobby "Blue" Bland, "Turn on Your Love Light"] But while Bland was influenced by many musicians we've talked about, his biggest influence wasn't a singer at all. It was a preacher he saw give a sermon in the early 1940s. As he said decades later: "Wasn't his words that got me—I couldn't tell you what he talked on that day, couldn't tell you what any of it meant, but it was the way he talked. He talked like he was singing. He talked music. The thing that really got me, though, was this squall-like sound he made to emphasize a certain word. He'd catch the word in his mouth, let it roll around and squeeze it with his tongue. When it popped on out, it exploded, and the ladies started waving and shouting. I liked all that. I started popping and shouting too. That next week I asked Mama when we were going back to Memphis to church. “‘Since when you so keen on church?' Mama asked. “‘I like that preacher,' I said. “‘Reverend Franklin?' she asked. “‘Well, if he's the one who sings when he preaches, that's the one I like.'" Bland was impressed by C.L. Franklin, and so were other Memphis musicians. Long after Franklin had moved to Detroit, they remembered him, and Bland and B.B. King would go to Franklin's church to see him preach whenever they were in the city. And Bland studied Franklin's records. He said later "I liked whatever was on the radio, especially those first things Nat Cole did with his trio. Naturally I liked the blues singers like Roy Brown, the jump singers like Louis Jordan, and the ballad singers like Billy Eckstine, but, brother, the man who really shaped me was Reverend Franklin." Bland would study Franklin's records, and would take the style that Franklin used in recorded sermons like "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest": [Excerpt: C.L. Franklin, "The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest"] And you can definitely hear that preaching style on records like Bland's "I Pity the Fool": [Excerpt: Bobby "Blue" Bland, "I Pity the Fool"] But of course, that wasn't the only influence the Reverend C.L. Franklin had on the course of soul music. C.L. Franklin had grown up poor, on a Mississippi farm, and had not even finished grade school because he was needed to work behind the mule, ploughing the farm for his stepfather. But he had a fierce intelligence and became an autodidact, travelling regularly to the nearest library, thirty miles away, on a horse-drawn wagon, and reading everything he could get his hands on. At the age of sixteen he received what he believed to be a message from God, and decided to become an itinerant preacher. He would travel between many small country churches and build up audiences there -- and he would also study everyone else preaching there, analysing their sermons, seeing if he could anticipate their line of argument and get ahead of them, figuring out the structure. But unlike many people in the conservative Black Baptist churches of the time, he never saw the spiritual and secular worlds as incompatible. He saw blues music and Black church sermons as both being part of the same thing -- a Black culture and folklore that was worthy of respect in both its spiritual and secular aspects. He soon built up a small circuit of local churches where he would preach occasionally, but wasn't the main pastor at any of them. He got married aged twenty, though that marriage didn't last, and he seems to have been ambitious for a greater respectability. When that marriage failed, in June 1936, he married Barbara Siggers, a very intelligent, cultured, young single mother who had attended Booker T Washington High School, the best Black school in Memphis, and he adopted her son Vaughn. While he was mostly still doing churches in Mississippi, he took on one in Memphis as well, in an extremely poor area, but it gave him a foot in the door to the biggest Black city in the US. Barbara would later be called "one of the really great gospel singers" by no less than Mahalia Jackson. We don't have any recordings of Barbara singing, but Mahalia Jackson certainly knew what she was talking about when it came to great gospel singers: [Excerpt: Mahalia Jackson, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"] Rev. Franklin was hugely personally ambitious, and he also wanted to get out of rural Mississippi, where the Klan were very active at this time, especially after his daughter Erma was born in 1938. They moved to Memphis in 1939, where he got a full-time position at New Salem Baptist Church, where for the first time he was able to earn a steady living from just one church and not have to tour round multiple churches. He soon became so popular that if you wanted to get a seat for the service at noon, you had to turn up for the 8AM Sunday School or you'd be forced to stand. He also enrolled for college courses at LeMoyne College. He didn't get a degree, but spent three years as a part-time student studying theology, literature, and sociology, and soon developed a liberal theology that was very different from the conservative fundamentalism he'd grown up in, though still very much part of the Baptist church. Where he'd grown up with a literalism that said the Bible was literally true, he started to accept things like evolution, and to see much of the Bible as metaphor. Now, we talked in the last episode about how impossible it is to get an accurate picture of the lives of religious leaders, because their life stories are told by those who admire them, and that's very much the case for C.L. Franklin. Franklin was a man who had many, many, admirable qualities -- he was fiercely intelligent, well-read, a superb public speaker, a man who was by all accounts genuinely compassionate towards those in need, and he became one of the leaders of the civil rights movement and inspired tens of thousands, maybe even millions, of people, directly and indirectly, to change the world for the better. He also raised several children who loved and admired him and were protective of his memory. And as such, there is an inevitable bias in the sources on Franklin's life. And so there's a tendency to soften the very worst things he did, some of which were very, very bad. For example in Nick Salvatore's biography of him, he talks about Franklin, in 1940, fathering a daughter with someone who is described as "a teenager" and "quite young". No details of her age other than that are given, and a few paragraphs later the age of a girl who was then sixteen *is* given, talking about having known the girl in question, and so the impression is given that the girl he impregnated was also probably in her late teens. Which would still be bad, but a man in his early twenties fathering a child with a girl in her late teens is something that can perhaps be forgiven as being a different time. But while the girl in question may have been a teenager when she gave birth, she was *twelve years old* when she became pregnant, by C.L. Franklin, the pastor of her church, who was in a position of power over her in multiple ways. Twelve years old. And this is not the only awful thing that Franklin did -- he was also known to regularly beat up women he was having affairs with, in public. I mention this now because everything else I say about him in this episode is filtered through sources who saw these things as forgivable character flaws in an otherwise admirable human being, and I can't correct for those biases because I don't know the truth. So it's going to sound like he was a truly great man. But bear those facts in mind. Barbara stayed with Franklin for the present, after discovering what he had done, but their marriage was a difficult one, and they split up and reconciled a handful of times. They had three more children together -- Cecil, Aretha, and Carolyn -- and remained together as Franklin moved on first to a church in Buffalo, New York, and then to New Bethel Church, in Detroit, on Hastings Street, a street which was the centre of Black nightlife in the city, as immortalised in John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillun": [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "Boogie Chillen"] Before moving to Detroit, Franklin had already started to get more political, as his congregation in Buffalo had largely been union members, and being free from the worst excesses of segregation allowed him to talk more openly about civil rights, but that only accelerated when he moved to Detroit, which had been torn apart just a couple of years earlier by police violence against Black protestors. Franklin had started building a reputation when in Memphis using radio broadcasts, and by the time he moved to Detroit he was able to command a very high salary, and not only that, his family were given a mansion by the church, in a rich part of town far away from most of his congregation. Smokey Robinson, who was Cecil Franklin's best friend and a frequent visitor to the mansion through most of his childhood, described it later, saying "Once inside, I'm awestruck -- oil paintings, velvet tapestries, silk curtains, mahogany cabinets filled with ornate objects of silver and gold. Man, I've never seen nothing like that before!" He made a lot of money, but he also increased church attendance so much that he earned that money. He had already been broadcasting on the radio, but when he started his Sunday night broadcasts in Detroit, he came up with a trick of having his sermons run long, so the show would end before the climax. People listening decided that they would have to start turning up in person to hear the end of the sermons, and soon he became so popular that the church would be so full that crowds would have to form on the street outside to listen. Other churches rescheduled their services so they wouldn't clash with Franklin's, and most of the other Black Baptist ministers in the city would go along to watch him preach. In 1948 though, a couple of years after moving to Detroit, Barbara finally left her husband. She took Vaughn with her and moved back to Buffalo, leaving the four biological children she'd had with C.L. with their father. But it's important to note that she didn't leave her children -- they would visit her on a regular basis, and stay with her over school holidays. Aretha later said "Despite the fact that it has been written innumerable times, it is an absolute lie that my mother abandoned us. In no way, shape, form, or fashion did our mother desert us." Barbara's place in the home was filled by many women -- C.L. Franklin's mother moved up from Mississippi to help him take care of the children, the ladies from the church would often help out, and even stars like Mahalia Jackson would turn up and cook meals for the children. There were also the women with whom Franklin carried on affairs, including Anna Gordy, Ruth Brown, and Dinah Washington, the most important female jazz and blues singer of the fifties, who had major R&B hits with records like her version of "Cold Cold Heart": [Excerpt: Dinah Washington, "Cold Cold Heart"] Although my own favourite record of hers is "Big Long Slidin' Thing", which she made with arranger Quincy Jones: [Excerpt: Dinah Washington, "Big Long Slidin' Thing"] It's about a trombone. Get your minds out of the gutter. Washington was one of the biggest vocal influences on young Aretha, but the single biggest influence was Clara Ward, another of C.L. Franklin's many girlfriends. Ward was the longest-lasting of these, and there seems to have been a lot of hope on both her part and Aretha's that she and Rev. Franklin would marry, though Franklin always made it very clear that monogamy wouldn't suit him. Ward was one of the three major female gospel singers of the middle part of the century, and possibly even more technically impressive as a vocalist than the other two, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson. Where Jackson was an austere performer, who refused to perform in secular contexts at all for most of her life, and took herself and her music very seriously, and Tharpe was a raunchier, funnier, more down-to-earth performer who was happy to play for blues audiences and even to play secular music on occasion, Ward was a *glamorous* performer, who wore sequined dresses and piled her hair high on her head. Ward had become a singer in 1931 when her mother had what she later talked about as a religious epiphany, and decided she wasn't going to be a labourer any more, she was going to devote her life to gospel music. Ward's mother had formed a vocal group with her two daughters, and Clara quickly became the star and her mother's meal ticket -- and her mother was very possessive of that ticket, to the extent that Ward, who was a bisexual woman who mostly preferred men, had more relationships with women, because her mother wouldn't let her be alone with the men she was attracted to. But Ward did manage to keep a relationship going with C.L. Franklin, and Aretha Franklin talked about the moment she decided to become a singer, when she saw Ward singing "Peace in the Valley" at a funeral: [Excerpt: Clara Ward, "Peace in the Valley"] As well as looking towards Ward as a vocal influence, Aretha was also influenced by her as a person -- she became a mother figure to Aretha, who would talk later about watching Ward eat, and noting her taking little delicate bites, and getting an idea of what it meant to be ladylike from her. After Ward's death in 1973, a notebook was found in which she had written her opinions of other singers. For Aretha she wrote “My baby Aretha, she doesn't know how good she is. Doubts self. Some day—to the moon. I love that girl.” Ward's influence became especially important to Aretha and her siblings after their mother died of a heart attack a few years after leaving her husband, when Aretha was ten, and Aretha, already a very introverted child, became even more so. Everyone who knew Aretha said that her later diva-ish reputation came out of a deep sense of insecurity and introversion -- that she was a desperately private, closed-off, person who would rarely express her emotions at all, and who would look away from you rather than make eye contact. The only time she let herself express emotions was when she performed music. And music was hugely important in the Franklin household. Most preachers in the Black church at that time were a bit dismissive of gospel music, because they thought the music took away from their prestige -- they saw it as a necessary evil, and resented it taking up space when their congregations could have been listening to them. But Rev. Franklin was himself a rather good singer, and even made a few gospel records himself in 1950, recording for Joe Von Battle, who owned a record shop on Hastings Street and also put out records by blues singers: [Excerpt: C.L. Franklin, "I Am Climbing Higher Mountains" ] The church's musical director was James Cleveland, one of the most important gospel artists of the fifties and sixties, who sang with groups like the Caravans: [Excerpt: The Caravans, "What Kind of Man is This?" ] Cleveland, who had started out in the choir run by Thomas Dorsey, the writer of “Take My Hand Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley”, moved in with the Franklin family for a while, and he gave the girls tips on playing the piano -- much later he would play piano on Aretha's album Amazing Grace, and she said of him “He showed me some real nice chords, and I liked his deep, deep sound”. Other than Clara Ward, he was probably the single biggest musical influence on Aretha. And all the touring gospel musicians would make appearances at New Bethel Church, not least of them Sam Cooke, who first appeared there with the Highway QCs and would continue to do so after joining the Soul Stirrers: [Excerpt: The Soul Stirrers, "Touch the Hem of his Garment"] Young Aretha and her older sister Erma both had massive crushes on Cooke, and there were rumours that he had an affair with one or both of them when they were in their teens, though both denied it. Aretha later said "When I first saw him, all I could do was sigh... Sam was love on first hearing, love at first sight." But it wasn't just gospel music that filled the house. One of the major ways that C.L. Franklin's liberalism showed was in his love of secular music, especially jazz and blues, which he regarded as just as important in Black cultural life as gospel music. We already talked about Dinah Washington being a regular visitor to the house, but every major Black entertainer would visit the Franklin residence when they were in Detroit. Both Aretha and Cecil Franklin vividly remembered visits from Art Tatum, who would sit at the piano and play for the family and their guests: [Excerpt: Art Tatum, "Tiger Rag"] Tatum was such a spectacular pianist that there's now a musicological term, the tatum, named after him, for the smallest possible discernible rhythmic interval between two notes. Young Aretha was thrilled by his technique, and by that of Oscar Peterson, who also regularly came to the Franklin home, sometimes along with Ella Fitzgerald. Nat "King" Cole was another regular visitor. The Franklin children all absorbed the music these people -- the most important musicians of the time -- were playing in their home, and young Aretha in particular became an astonishing singer and also an accomplished pianist. Smokey Robinson later said: “The other thing that knocked us out about Aretha was her piano playing. There was a grand piano in the Franklin living room, and we all liked to mess around. We'd pick out little melodies with one finger. But when Aretha sat down, even as a seven-year-old, she started playing chords—big chords. Later I'd recognize them as complex church chords, the kind used to accompany the preacher and the solo singer. At the time, though, all I could do was view Aretha as a wonder child. Mind you, this was Detroit, where musical talent ran strong and free. Everyone was singing and harmonizing; everyone was playing piano and guitar. Aretha came out of this world, but she also came out of another far-off magical world none of us really understood. She came from a distant musical planet where children are born with their gifts fully formed.” C.L. Franklin became more involved in the music business still when Joe Von Battle started releasing records of his sermons, which had become steadily more politically aware: [Excerpt: C.L. Franklin, "Dry Bones in the Valley"] Franklin was not a Marxist -- he was a liberal, but like many liberals was willing to stand with Marxists where they had shared interests, even when it was dangerous. For example in 1954, at the height of McCarthyism, he had James and Grace Lee Boggs, two Marxist revolutionaries, come to the pulpit and talk about their support for the anti-colonial revolution in Kenya, and they sold four hundred copies of their pamphlet after their talk, because he saw that the struggle of Black Africans to get out from white colonial rule was the same struggle as that of Black Americans. And Franklin's powerful sermons started getting broadcast on the radio in areas further out from Detroit, as Chess Records picked up the distribution for them and people started playing the records on other stations. People like future Congressman John Lewis and the Reverend Jesse Jackson would later talk about listening to C.L. Franklin's records on the radio and being inspired -- a whole generation of Black Civil Rights leaders took their cues from him, and as the 1950s and 60s went on he became closer and closer to Martin Luther King in particular. But C.L. Franklin was always as much an ambitious showman as an activist, and he started putting together gospel tours, consisting mostly of music but with himself giving a sermon as the headline act. And he became very, very wealthy from these tours. On one trip in the south, his car broke down, and he couldn't find a mechanic willing to work on it. A group of white men started mocking him with racist terms, trying to provoke him, as he was dressed well and driving a nice car (albeit one that had broken down). Rather than arguing with them, he walked to a car dealership, and bought a new car with the cash that he had on him. By 1956 he was getting around $4000 per appearance, roughly equivalent to $43,000 today, and he was making a *lot* of appearances. He also sold half a million records that year. Various gospel singers, including the Clara Ward Singers, would perform on the tours he organised, and one of those performers was Franklin's middle daughter Aretha. Aretha had become pregnant when she was twelve, and after giving birth to the child she dropped out of school, but her grandmother did most of the child-rearing for her, while she accompanied her father on tour. Aretha's first recordings, made when she was just fourteen, show what an astonishing talent she already was at that young age. She would grow as an artist, of course, as she aged and gained experience, but those early gospel records already show an astounding maturity and ability. It's jaw-dropping to listen to these records of a fourteen-year-old, and immediately recognise them as a fully-formed Aretha Franklin. [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood"] Smokey Robinson's assessment that she was born with her gifts fully formed doesn't seem like an exaggeration when you hear that. For the latter half of the fifties, Aretha toured with her father, performing on the gospel circuit and becoming known there. But the Franklin sisters were starting to get ideas about moving into secular music. This was largely because their family friend Sam Cooke had done just that, with "You Send Me": [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, "You Send Me"] Aretha and Erma still worshipped Cooke, and Aretha would later talk about getting dressed up just to watch Cooke appear on the TV. Their brother Cecil later said "I remember the night Sam came to sing at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit. Erma and Ree said they weren't going because they were so heartbroken that Sam had recently married. I didn't believe them. And I knew I was right when they started getting dressed about noon for the nine o'clock show. Because they were underage, they put on a ton of makeup to look older. It didn't matter 'cause Berry Gordy's sisters, Anna and Gwen, worked the photo concession down there, taking pictures of the party people. Anna was tight with Daddy and was sure to let my sisters in. She did, and they came home with stars in their eyes.” Moving from gospel to secular music still had a stigma against it in the gospel world, but Rev. Franklin had never seen secular music as sinful, and he encouraged his daughters in their ambitions. Erma was the first to go secular, forming a girl group, the Cleo-Patrettes, at the suggestion of the Four Tops, who were family friends, and recording a single for Joe Von Battle's J-V-B label, "No Other Love": [Excerpt: The Cleo-Patrettes, "No Other Love"] But the group didn't go any further, as Rev. Franklin insisted that his eldest daughter had to finish school and go to university before she could become a professional singer. Erma missed other opportunities for different reasons, though -- Berry Gordy, at this time still a jobbing songwriter, offered her a song he'd written with his sister and Roquel Davis, but Erma thought of herself as a jazz singer and didn't want to do R&B, and so "All I Could Do Was Cry" was given to Etta James instead, who had a top forty pop hit with it: [Excerpt: Etta James, "All I Could Do Was Cry"] While Erma's move into secular music was slowed by her father wanting her to have an education, there was no such pressure on Aretha, as she had already dropped out. But Aretha had a different problem -- she was very insecure, and said that church audiences "weren't critics, but worshippers", but she was worried that nightclub audiences in particular were just the kind of people who would just be looking for flaws, rather than wanting to support the performer as church audiences did. But eventually she got up the nerve to make the move. There was the possibility of her getting signed to Motown -- her brother was still best friends with Smokey Robinson, while the Gordy family were close to her father -- but Rev. Franklin had his eye on bigger things. He wanted her to be signed to Columbia, which in 1960 was the most prestigious of all the major labels. As Aretha's brother Cecil later said "He wanted Ree on Columbia, the label that recorded Mahalia Jackson, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Percy Faith, and Doris Day. Daddy said that Columbia was the biggest and best record company in the world. Leonard Bernstein recorded for Columbia." They went out to New York to see Phil Moore, a legendary vocal coach and arranger who had helped make Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge into stars, but Moore actually refused to take her on as a client, saying "She does not require my services. Her style has already been developed. Her style is in place. It is a unique style that, in my professional opinion, requires no alteration. It simply requires the right material. Her stage presentation is not of immediate concern. All that will come later. The immediate concern is the material that will suit her best. And the reason that concern will not be easily addressed is because I can't imagine any material that will not suit her." That last would become a problem for the next few years, but the immediate issue was to get someone at Columbia to listen to her, and Moore could help with that -- he was friends with John Hammond. Hammond is a name that's come up several times in the podcast already -- we mentioned him in the very earliest episodes, and also in episode ninety-eight, where we looked at his signing of Bob Dylan. But Hammond was a legend in the music business. He had produced sessions for Bessie Smith, had discovered Count Basie and Billie Holiday, had convinced Benny Goodman to hire Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton, had signed Pete Seeger and the Weavers to Columbia, had organised the Spirituals to Swing concerts which we talked about in the first few episodes of this podcast, and was about to put out the first album of Robert Johnson's recordings. Of all the executives at Columbia, he was the one who had the greatest eye for talent, and the greatest understanding of Black musical culture. Moore suggested that the Franklins get Major Holley to produce a demo recording that he could get Hammond to listen to. Major Holley was a family friend, and a jazz bassist who had played with Oscar Peterson and Coleman Hawkins among others, and he put together a set of songs for Aretha that would emphasise the jazz side of her abilities, pitching her as a Dinah Washington style bluesy jazz singer. The highlight of the demo was a version of "Today I Sing the Blues", a song that had originally been recorded by Helen Humes, the singer who we last heard of recording “Be Baba Leba” with Bill Doggett: [Excerpt: Helen Humes, "Today I Sing the Blues"] That original version had been produced by Hammond, but the song had also recently been covered by Aretha's idol, Sam Cooke: [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, "Today I Sing the Blues"] Hammond was hugely impressed by the demo, and signed Aretha straight away, and got to work producing her first album. But he and Rev. Franklin had different ideas about what Aretha should do. Hammond wanted to make a fairly raw-sounding bluesy jazz album, the kind of recording he had produced with Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday, but Rev. Franklin wanted his daughter to make music that would cross over to the white pop market -- he was aiming for the same kind of audience that Nat "King" Cole or Harry Belafonte had, and he wanted her recording standards like "Over the Rainbow". This showed a lack of understanding on Rev. Franklin's part of how such crossovers actually worked at this point. As Etta James later said, "If you wanna have Black hits, you gotta understand the Black streets, you gotta work those streets and work those DJs to get airplay on Black stations... Or looking at it another way, in those days you had to get the Black audience to love the hell outta you and then hope the love would cross over to the white side. Columbia didn't know nothing 'bout crossing over.” But Hammond knew they had to make a record quickly, because Sam Cooke had been working on RCA Records, trying to get them to sign Aretha, and Rev. Franklin wanted an album out so they could start booking club dates for her, and was saying that if they didn't get one done quickly he'd take up that offer, and so they came up with a compromise set of songs which satisfied nobody, but did produce two R&B top ten hits, "Won't Be Long" and Aretha's version of "Today I Sing the Blues": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Today I Sing the Blues"] This is not to say that Aretha herself saw this as a compromise -- she later said "I have never compromised my material. Even then, I knew a good song from a bad one. And if Hammond, one of the legends of the business, didn't know how to produce a record, who does? No, the fault was with promotion." And this is something important to bear in mind as we talk about her Columbia records. Many, *many* people have presented those records as Aretha being told what to do by producers who didn't understand her art and were making her record songs that didn't fit her style. That's not what's happening with the Columbia records. Everyone actually involved said that Aretha was very involved in the choices made -- and there are some genuinely great tracks on those albums. The problem is that they're *unfocused*. Aretha was only eighteen when she signed to the label, and she loved all sorts of music -- blues, jazz, soul, standards, gospel, middle-of-the-road pop music -- and wanted to sing all those kinds of music. And she *could* sing all those kinds of music, and sing them well. But it meant the records weren't coherent. You didn't know what you were getting, and there was no artistic personality that dominated them, it was just what Aretha felt like recording. Around this time, Aretha started to think that maybe her father didn't know what he was talking about when it came to popular music success, even though she idolised him in most areas, and she turned to another figure, who would soon become both her husband and manager. Ted White. Her sister Erma, who was at that time touring with Lloyd Price, had introduced them, but in fact Aretha had first seen White years earlier, in her own house -- he had been Dinah Washington's boyfriend in the fifties, and her first sight of him had been carrying a drunk Washington out of the house after a party. In interviews with David Ritz, who wrote biographies of many major soul stars including both Aretha Franklin and Etta James, James had a lot to say about White, saying “Ted White was famous even before he got with Aretha. My boyfriend at the time, Harvey Fuqua, used to talk about him. Ted was supposed to be the slickest pimp in Detroit. When I learned that Aretha married him, I wasn't surprised. A lot of the big-time singers who we idolized as girls—like Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan—had pimps for boyfriends and managers. That was standard operating procedure. My own mother had made a living turning tricks. When we were getting started, that way of life was part of the music business. It was in our genes. Part of the lure of pimps was that they got us paid." She compared White to Ike Turner, saying "Ike made Tina, no doubt about it. He developed her talent. He showed her what it meant to be a performer. He got her famous. Of course, Ted White was not a performer, but he was savvy about the world. When Harvey Fuqua introduced me to him—this was the fifties, before he was with Aretha—I saw him as a super-hip extra-smooth cat. I liked him. He knew music. He knew songwriters who were writing hit songs. He had manners. Later, when I ran into him and Aretha—this was the sixties—I saw that she wasn't as shy as she used to be." White was a pimp, but he was also someone with music business experience -- he owned an unsuccessful publishing company, and also ran a chain of jukeboxes. He was also thirty, while Aretha was only eighteen. But White didn't like the people in Aretha's life at the time -- he didn't get on well with her father, and he also clashed with John Hammond. And Aretha was also annoyed at Hammond, because her sister Erma had signed to Epic, a Columbia subsidiary, and was releasing her own singles: [Excerpt: Erma Franklin, "Hello Again"] Aretha was certain that Hammond had signed Erma, even though Hammond had nothing to do with Epic Records, and Erma had actually been recommended by Lloyd Price. And Aretha, while for much of her career she would support her sister, was also terrified that her sister might have a big hit before her and leave Aretha in her shadow. Hammond was still the credited producer on Aretha's second album, The Electrifying Aretha Franklin, but his lack of say in the sessions can be shown in the choice of lead-off single. "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" was originally recorded by Al Jolson in 1918: [Excerpt: Al Jolson, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"] Rev. Franklin pushed for the song, as he was a fan of Jolson -- Jolson, oddly, had a large Black fanbase, despite his having been a blackface performer, because he had *also* been a strong advocate of Black musicians like Cab Calloway, and the level of racism in the media of the twenties through forties was so astonishingly high that even a blackface performer could seem comparatively OK. Aretha's performance was good, but it was hardly the kind of thing that audiences were clamouring for in 1961: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody"] That single came out the month after _Down Beat_ magazine gave Aretha the "new-star female vocalist award", and it oddly made the pop top forty, her first record to do so, and the B-side made the R&B top ten, but for the next few years both chart success and critical acclaim eluded her. None of her next nine singles would make higher than number eighty-six on the Hot One Hundred, and none would make the R&B charts at all. After that transitional second album, she was paired with producer Bob Mersey, who was precisely the kind of white pop producer that one would expect for someone who hoped for crossover success. Mersey was the producer for many of Columbia's biggest stars at the time -- people like Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, Julie Andrews, Patti Page, and Mel Tormé -- and it was that kind of audience that Aretha wanted to go for at this point. To give an example of the kind of thing that Mersey was doing, just the month before he started work on his first collaboration with Aretha, _The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin_, his production of Andy Williams singing "Moon River" was released: [Excerpt: Andy Williams, "Moon River"] This was the kind of audience Aretha was going for when it came to record sales – the person she compared herself to most frequently at this point was Barbra Streisand – though in live performances she was playing with a small jazz group in jazz venues, and going for the same kind of jazz-soul crossover audience as Dinah Washington or Ray Charles. The strategy seems to have been to get something like the success of her idol Sam Cooke, who could play to soul audiences but also play the Copacabana, but the problem was that Cooke had built an audience before doing that -- she hadn't. But even though she hadn't built up an audience, musicians were starting to pay attention. Ted White, who was still in touch with Dinah Washington, later said “Women are very catty. They'll see a girl who's dressed very well and they'll say, Yeah, but look at those shoes, or look at that hairdo. Aretha was the only singer I've ever known that Dinah had no negative comments about. She just stood with her mouth open when she heard Aretha sing.” The great jazz vocalist Carmen McRea went to see Aretha at the Village Vanguard in New York around this time, having heard the comparisons to Dinah Washington, and met her afterwards. She later said "Given how emotionally she sang, I expected her to have a supercharged emotional personality like Dinah. Instead, she was the shyest thing I've ever met. Would hardly look me in the eye. Didn't say more than two words. I mean, this bitch gave bashful a new meaning. Anyway, I didn't give her any advice because she didn't ask for any, but I knew goddamn well that, no matter how good she was—and she was absolutely wonderful—she'd have to make up her mind whether she wanted to be Della Reese, Dinah Washington, or Sarah Vaughan. I also had a feeling she wouldn't have minded being Leslie Uggams or Diahann Carroll. I remember thinking that if she didn't figure out who she was—and quick—she was gonna get lost in the weeds of the music biz." So musicians were listening to Aretha, even if everyone else wasn't. The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin, for example, was full of old standards like "Try a Little Tenderness": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Try a Little Tenderness"] That performance inspired Otis Redding to cut his own version of that song a few years later: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Try a Little Tenderness"] And it might also have inspired Aretha's friend and idol Sam Cooke to include the song in his own lounge sets. The Tender, the Moving, the Swinging Aretha Franklin also included Aretha's first original composition, but in general it wasn't a very well-received album. In 1963, the first cracks started to develop in Aretha's relationship with Ted White. According to her siblings, part of the strain was because Aretha's increasing commitment to the civil rights movement was costing her professional opportunities. Her brother Cecil later said "Ted White had complete sway over her when it came to what engagements to accept and what songs to sing. But if Daddy called and said, ‘Ree, I want you to sing for Dr. King,' she'd drop everything and do just that. I don't think Ted had objections to her support of Dr. King's cause, and he realized it would raise her visibility. But I do remember the time that there was a conflict between a big club gig and doing a benefit for Dr. King. Ted said, ‘Take the club gig. We need the money.' But Ree said, ‘Dr. King needs me more.' She defied her husband. Maybe that was the start of their marital trouble. Their thing was always troubled because it was based on each of them using the other. Whatever the case, my sister proved to be a strong soldier in the civil rights fight. That made me proud of her and it kept her relationship with Daddy from collapsing entirely." In part her increasing activism was because of her father's own increase in activity. The benefit that Cecil is talking about there is probably one in Chicago organised by Mahalia Jackson, where Aretha headlined on a bill that also included Jackson, Eartha Kitt, and the comedian Dick Gregory. That was less than a month before her father organised the Detroit Walk to Freedom, a trial run for the more famous March on Washington a few weeks later. The Detroit Walk to Freedom was run by the Detroit Council for Human Rights, which was formed by Rev. Franklin and Rev. Albert Cleage, a much more radical Black nationalist who often differed with Franklin's more moderate integrationist stance. They both worked together to organise the Walk to Freedom, but Franklin's stance predominated, as several white liberal politicians, like the Mayor of Detroit, Jerome Cavanagh, were included in the largely-Black March. It drew crowds of 125,000 people, and Dr. King called it "one of the most wonderful things that has happened in America", and it was the largest civil rights demonstration in American history up to that point. King's speech in Detroit was recorded and released on Motown Records: [Excerpt: Martin Luther King, "Original 'I Have a Dream' Speech”] He later returned to the same ideas in his more famous speech in Washington. During that civil rights spring and summer of 1963, Aretha also recorded what many think of as the best of her Columbia albums, a collection of jazz standards called Laughing on the Outside, which included songs like "Solitude", "Ol' Man River" and "I Wanna Be Around": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Wanna Be Around"] The opening track, "Skylark", was Etta James' favourite ever Aretha Franklin performance, and is regarded by many as the definitive take on the song: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Skylark"] Etta James later talked about discussing the track with the great jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, one of Aretha's early influences, who had recorded her own version of the song: "Sarah said, ‘Have you heard of this Aretha Franklin girl?' I said, ‘You heard her do “Skylark,” didn't you?' Sarah said, ‘Yes, I did, and I'm never singing that song again.” But while the album got noticed by other musicians, it didn't get much attention from the wider public. Mersey decided that a change in direction was needed, and they needed to get in someone with more of a jazz background to work with Aretha. He brought in pianist and arranger Bobby Scott, who had previously worked with people like Lester Young, and Scott said of their first meeting “My first memory of Aretha is that she wouldn't look at me when I spoke. She withdrew from the encounter in a way that intrigued me. At first I thought she was just shy—and she was—but I also felt her reading me...For all her deference to my experience and her reluctance to speak up, when she did look me in the eye, she did so with a quiet intensity before saying, ‘I like all your ideas, Mr. Scott, but please remember I do want hits.'” They started recording together, but the sides they cut wouldn't be released for a few years. Instead, Aretha and Mersey went in yet another direction. Dinah Washington died suddenly in December 1963, and given that Aretha was already being compared to Washington by almost everyone, and that Washington had been a huge influence on her, as well as having been close to both her father and her husband/manager, it made sense to go into the studio and quickly cut a tribute album, with Aretha singing Washington's hits: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Cold Cold Heart"] Unfortunately, while Washington had been wildly popular, and one of the most important figures in jazz and R&B in the forties and fifties, her style was out of date. The tribute album, titled Unforgettable, came out in February 1964, the same month that Beatlemania hit the US. Dinah Washington was the past, and trying to position Aretha as "the new Dinah Washington" would doom her to obscurity. John Hammond later said "I remember thinking that if Aretha never does another album she will be remembered for this one. No, the problem was timing. Dinah had died, and, outside the black community, interest in her had waned dramatically. Popular music was in a radical and revolutionary moment, and that moment had nothing to do with Dinah Washington, great as she was and will always be.” At this point, Columbia brought in Clyde Otis, an independent producer and songwriter who had worked with artists like Washington and Sarah Vaughan, and indeed had written one of the songs on Unforgettable, but had also worked with people like Brook Benton, who had a much more R&B audience. For example, he'd written "Baby, You Got What It Takes" for Benton and Washington to do as a duet: [Excerpt: Brook Benton and Dinah Washington, "Baby, You Got What it Takes"] In 1962, when he was working at Mercury Records before going independent, Otis had produced thirty-three of the fifty-one singles the label put out that year that had charted. Columbia had decided that they were going to position Aretha firmly in the R&B market, and assigned Otis to do just that. At first, though, Otis had no more luck with getting Aretha to sing R&B than anyone else had. He later said "Aretha, though, couldn't be deterred from her determination to beat Barbra Streisand at Barbra's own game. I kept saying, ‘Ree, you can outsing Streisand any day of the week. That's not the point. The point is to find a hit.' But that summer she just wanted straight-up ballads. She insisted that she do ‘People,' Streisand's smash. Aretha sang the hell out of it, but no one's gonna beat Barbra at her own game." But after several months of this, eventually Aretha and White came round to the idea of making an R&B record. Otis produced an album of contemporary R&B, with covers of music from the more sophisticated end of the soul market, songs like "My Guy", "Every Little Bit Hurts", and "Walk on By", along with a few new originals brought in by Otis. The title track, "Runnin' Out of Fools", became her biggest hit in three years, making number fifty-seven on the pop charts and number thirty on the R&B charts: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Runnin' Out of Fools"] After that album, they recorded another album with Otis producing, a live-in-the-studio jazz album, but again nobody involved could agree on a style for her. By this time it was obvious that she was unhappy with Columbia and would be leaving the label soon, and they wanted to get as much material in the can as they could, so they could continue releasing material after she left. But her working relationship with Otis was deteriorating -- Otis and Ted White did not get on, Aretha and White were having their own problems, and Aretha had started just not showing up for some sessions, with nobody knowing where she was. Columbia passed her on to yet another producer, this time Bob Johnston, who had just had a hit with Patti Page, "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte": [Excerpt: Patti Page, "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte"] Johnston was just about to hit an incredible hot streak as a producer. At the same time as his sessions with Aretha, he was also producing Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, and just after the sessions finished he'd go on to produce Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence album. In the next few years he would produce a run of classic Dylan albums like Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, and New Morning, Simon & Garfunkel's follow up Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, Leonard Cohen's first three albums, and Johnny Cash's comeback with the Live at Folsom Prison album and its follow up At San Quentin. He also produced records for Marty Robbins, Flatt & Scruggs, the Byrds, and Burl Ives during that time period. But you may notice that while that's as great a run of records as any producer was putting out at the time, it has little to do with the kind of music that Aretha Franklin was making then, or would become famous with. Johnston produced a string-heavy session in which Aretha once again tried to sing old standards by people like Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. She then just didn't turn up for some more sessions, until one final session in August, when she recorded songs like "Swanee" and "You Made Me Love You". For more than a year, she didn't go into a studio. She also missed many gigs and disappeared from her family's life for periods of time. Columbia kept putting out records of things she'd already recorded, but none of them had any success at all. Many of the records she'd made for Columbia had been genuinely great -- there's a popular perception that she was being held back by a record company that forced her to sing material she didn't like, but in fact she *loved* old standards, and jazz tunes, and contemporary pop at least as much as any other kind of music. Truly great musicians tend to have extremely eclectic tastes, and Aretha Franklin was a truly great musician if anyone was. Her Columbia albums are as good as any albums in those genres put out in that time period, and she remained proud of them for the rest of her life. But that very eclecticism had meant that she hadn't established a strong identity as a performer -- everyone who heard her records knew she was a great singer, but nobody knew what "an Aretha Franklin record" really meant -- and she hadn't had a single real hit, which was the thing she wanted more than anything. All that changed when in the early hours of the morning, Jerry Wexler was at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals recording a Wilson Pickett track -- from the timeline, it was probably the session for "Mustang Sally", which coincidentally was published by Ted White's publishing company, as Sir Mack Rice, the writer, was a neighbour of White and Franklin, and to which Aretha had made an uncredited songwriting contribution: [Excerpt: Wilson Pickett, "Mustang Sally"] Whatever the session, it wasn't going well. Percy Sledge, another Atlantic artist who recorded at Muscle Shoals, had turned up and had started winding Pickett up, telling him he sounded just like James Brown. Pickett *hated* Brown -- it seems like almost every male soul singer of the sixties hated James Brown -- and went to physically attack Sledge. Wexler got between the two men to protect his investments in them -- both were the kind of men who could easily cause some serious damage to anyone they hit -- and Pickett threw him to one side and charged at Sledge. At that moment the phone went, and Wexler yelled at the two of them to calm down so he could talk on the phone. The call was telling him that Aretha Franklin was interested in recording for Atlantic. Rev. Louise Bishop, later a Democratic politician in Pennsylvania, was at this time a broadcaster, presenting a radio gospel programme, and she knew Aretha. She'd been to see her perform, and had been astonished by Aretha's performance of a recent Otis Redding single, "Respect": [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Respect"] Redding will, by the way, be getting his own episode in a few months' time, which is why I've not covered the making of that record here. Bishop thought that Aretha did the song even better than Redding -- something Bishop hadn't thought possible. When she got talking to Aretha after the show, she discovered that her contract with Columbia was up, and Aretha didn't really know what she was going to do -- maybe she'd start her own label or something. She hadn't been into the studio in more than a year, but she did have some songs she'd been working on. Bishop was good friends with Jerry Wexler, and she knew that he was a big fan of Aretha's, and had been saying for a while that when her contract was up he'd like to sign her. Bishop offered to make the connection, and then went back home and phoned Wexler's wife, waking her up -- it was one in the morning by this point, but Bishop was accustomed to phoning Wexler late at night when it was something important. Wexler's wife then phoned him in Muscle Shoals, and he phoned Bishop back and made the arrangements to meet up. Initially, Wexler wasn't thinking about producing Aretha himself -- this was still the period when he and the Ertegun brothers were thinking of selling Atlantic and getting out of the music business, and so while he signed her to the label he was originally going to hand her over to Jim Stewart at Stax to record, as he had with Sam and Dave. But in a baffling turn of events, Jim Stewart didn't actually want to record her, and so Wexler determined that he had better do it himself. And he didn't want to do it with slick New York musicians -- he wanted to bring out the gospel sound in her voice, and he thought the best way to do that was with musicians from what Charles Hughes refers to as "the country-soul triangle" of Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals. So he booked a week's worth of sessions at FAME studios, and got in FAME's regular rhythm section, plus a couple of musicians from American Recordings in Memphis -- Chips Moman and Spooner Oldham. Oldham's friend and songwriting partner Dan Penn came along as well -- he wasn't officially part of the session, but he was a fan of Aretha's and wasn't going to miss this. Penn had been the first person that Rick Hall, the owner of FAME, had called when Wexler had booked the studio, because Hall hadn't actually heard of Aretha Franklin up to that point, but didn't want to let Wexler know that. Penn had assured him that Aretha was one of the all-time great talents, and that she just needed the right production to become massive. As Hall put it in his autobiography, "Dan tended in those days to hate anything he didn't write, so I figured if he felt that strongly about her, then she was probably going to be a big star." Charlie Chalmers, a horn player who regularly played with these musicians, was tasked with putting together a horn section. The first song they recorded that day was one that the musicians weren't that impressed with at first. "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)" was written by a songwriter named Ronnie Shannon, who had driven from Georgia to Detroit hoping to sell his songs to Motown. He'd popped into a barber's shop where Ted White was having his hair cut to ask for directions to Motown, and White had signed him to his own publishing company and got him to write songs for Aretha. On hearing the demo, the musicians thought that the song was mediocre and a bit shapeless: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You) (demo)"] But everyone there was agreed that Aretha herself was spectacular. She didn't speak much to the musicians, just went to the piano and sat down and started playing, and Jerry Wexler later compared her playing to Thelonius Monk (who was indeed one of the jazz musicians who had influenced her). While Spooner Oldham had been booked to play piano, it was quickly decided to switch him to electric piano and organ, leaving the acoustic piano for Aretha to play, and she would play piano on all the sessions Wexler produced for her in future. Although while Wexler is the credited producer (and on this initial session Rick Hall at FAME is a credited co-producer), everyone involved, including Wexler, said that the musicians were taking their cues from Aretha rather than anyone else. She would outline the arrangements at the piano, and everyone else would fit in with what she was doing, coming up with head arrangements directed by her. But Wexler played a vital role in mediating between her and the musicians and engineering staff, all of whom he knew and she didn't. As Rick Hall said "After her brief introduction by Wexler, she said very little to me or anyone else in the studio other than Jerry or her husband for the rest of the day. I don't think Aretha and I ever made eye contact after our introduction, simply because we were both so totally focused on our music and consumed by what we were doing." The musicians started working on "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)", and at first found it difficult to get the groove, but then Oldham came up with an electric piano lick which everyone involved thought of as the key that unlocked the song for them: [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You)"] After that, they took a break. Most of them were pleased with the track, though Rick Hall wasn't especially happy. But then Rick Hall wasn't especially happy about anything at that point. He'd always used mono for his recordings until then, but had been basically forced to install at least a two-track system by Tom Dowd, Atlantic's chief engineer, and was resentful of this imposition. During the break, Dan Penn went off to finish a song he and Spooner Oldham had been writing, which he hoped Aretha would record at the session: [Excerpt: Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"] They had the basic structure of the song down, but hadn't quite finished the middle eight, and both Jerry Wexler and Aretha Franklin chipped in uncredited lyrical contributions -- Aretha's line was "as long as we're together baby, you'd better show some respect to me". Penn, Oldham, Chips Moman, Roger Hawkins, and Tommy Cogbill started cutting a backing track for the song, with Penn singing lead initially with the idea that Aretha would overdub her vocal. But while they were doing this, things had been going wrong with the other participants. All the FAME and American rhythm section players were white, as were Wexler, Hall, and Dowd, and Wexler had been very aware of this, and of the fact that they were recording in Alabama, where Aretha and her husband might not feel totally safe, so he'd specifically requested that the horn section at least contain some Black musicians. But Charlie Chalmers hadn't been able to get any of the Black musicians he would normally call when putting together a horn section, and had ended up with an all-white horn section as well, including one player, a trumpet player called Ken Laxton, who had a reputation as a good player but had never worked with any of the other musicians there -- he was an outsider in a group of people who regularly worked together and had a pre-existing relationship. As the two outsiders, Laxton and Ted White had, at first, bonded, and indeed had started drinking vodka together, passing a bottle between themselves, in a way that Rick Hall would normally not allow in a session -- at the time, the county the studio was in was still a dry county. But as Wexler said, “A redneck patronizing a Black man is a dangerous camaraderie,” and White and Laxton soon had a major falling out. Everyone involved tells a different story about what it was that caused them to start rowing, though it seems to have been to do with Laxton not showing the proper respect for Aretha, or even actually sexually assaulting her -- Dan Penn later said “I always heard he patted her on the butt or somethin', and what would have been wrong with that anyway?”, which says an awful lot about the attitudes of these white Southern men who thought of themselves as very progressive, and were -- for white Southern men in early 1967. Either way, White got very, very annoyed, and insisted that Laxton get fired from the session, which he was, but that still didn't satisfy White, and he stormed off to the motel, drunk and angry. The rest of them finished cutting a basic track for "Do Right Woman", but nobody was very happy with it. Oldham said later “She liked the song but hadn't had time to practice it or settle into it I remember there was Roger playing the drums and Cogbill playing the bass. And I'm on these little simplistic chords on organ, just holding chords so the song would be understood. And that was sort of where it was left. Dan had to sing the vocal, because she didn't know the song, in the wrong key for him. That's what they left with—Dan singing the wrong-key vocal and this little simplistic organ and a bass and a drum. We had a whole week to do everything—we had plenty of time—so there was no hurry to do anything in particular.” Penn was less optimistic, saying "But as I rem