Ohio Valley + Muscle Shoals = Rick Powell

I am eternally grateful that a hometown musical troupe – The Raisins – just happened to be one of the greatest rock bands of the 1980s.  Amusing to recall in retrospect my adolescent disbelief when a friend once informed me that Rick Powell‘s musical life was not wholly enveloped by The Raisins — that, in fact, he had played on 1978’s The Leblanc-Carr Band’s Live from the Atlantic Studios album.

Rick “Bam” Powell — the “writing-singing drummer” who joined forces early in his career with the aforementioned Wayne Perry, as well as Roger “Jellyroll” Troy (later with Mike Bloomfield & The Electric Flag) — would cut his first piece of wax providing the soul-rockin’ vocals for “Gonna Have a Good Time” on Randy McNutt’s Beast imprint:

[Pssst:   Click on the triangle above to play “Gonna Have a Good Time” by Rick Powell & Little Flint]

Did I mention that Powell was a high-schooler at the time?  Powell would record the song with his own group – The Chamberly Kids – along with Wayne Perry’s outfit, Little Flint.

Recorded in 1970/71 –  Released in 1973 – Distributed by Counterpart Records

Little Flint 45

Randy McNutt, who produced some of Powell’s earliest recordings, would include both versions on his CD compilation, Souled Out:  Queen City Soul-Rockers of the 1970s.  For the (unreleased) Chamberly Kids session, Powell was excited to work with Roger Troy, whose band, Jellyroll, had just been signed by Kapp Records.  According to McNutt, “Wayne [Perry] joined him on harmonies and Roger ‘Jellyroll’ Troy, leader of the band Jellyroll, played bass.  During the memorable session at Jewel, Jellyroll’s car was repossessed and he wore red, white, and blue shoes.”

Rick Powell recording at home in 1974 (photo courtesy of Randy McNutt)

Rick Powell - 1974As Powell recounted later to McNutt:

“One day I got a call from a guy who claimed he managed LeBlanc and Carr in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” Powell says.  “I asked him, ‘All right, who’s pulling my leg?’  But he was their manager, and he was offering me a job as one of their two drummers.  I auditioned and got the job.  Later, they cut back to just one drummer—me.  I toured and recorded with them for the better part of four years.  We were on the road constantly.  It was insane, really.  We opened for a bunch of hit acts—Robert Palmer, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Taj Mahal, and others.  I was based out of Muscle Shoals, where I visited the famous studio where the Swampers [studio musicians] cut the hits.  I feel like a small part of history.”

Sticker Shock:  Wayne Perry & Little Flint’s “Pain” b/w “Gonna Have a Good Time” 45 – categorized overseas as “northern soul mod” (!) – can fetch upwards of $100.

This drummer sings, you know

Rick 'Bam' PowellGood News for Music Fans:  Rick Powell, who once declared he has “no intention of quitting — they’ll have to drag me off the stage when they’re through with me,” has an excellent album of “funky pop rock” = 2009’s Eat the Fat, Drink the Sweet = that is yours for the taking at CD Baby.  Watch out for “Step by Step” – that one is particularly infectious.

Larry Nager’s 1999 biographical profile for The Cincinnati Enquirer is also very informative.

Powell’s soul-rockin’ Adrian Belew-produced B-side for 1983 Raisins 45

Raisins 45-21981 Debut Raisins 45                                   Final Raisins 45 from 1984

Raisins 45-1Raisins 45-3

insert for 1981 debut 45 “Quarters” b/w “Tour Guide”

Raisins

Cincinnati’s Bubblegum Soul

Randy McNutt gives a first-hand account of Cincinnati’s local recording scene in the liner notes to his CD compilation Souled Out:  Queen City Soul-Rockers of the 1970s:

“[Lonnie] Mack’s 1963 hit “Memphis” and “Wham!” [on Cincinnati’s Fraternity label] had started a local fascination with blues-rock — a combination of the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and a dash of country.  By 1970, however, Ohio’s raucous roadhouse sound had tilted toward rock and soul.

In Cincinnati, the best places to record such music were the iconic King Recording Studio on Brewster Avenue in Evanston (where James Brown often recorded), and guitarist Rusty York’s newer Jewel Recording on Kinney Avenue in [suburban] Mt. Healthy.  They were mono paradises with a lot of bottom in their sounds.  When King abruptly closed in 1971, Jewel became the main venue for blue-eyed soul.  Mack operated out of there.  Even the Heywoods recorded there.  They had horns then, long before ‘Billy Don’t Be a Hero.’

McNutt then recounts the circumstances behind the recording of the catchy “bubblegum soul” B-side of the very first single he co-wrote & -produced with singer, Wayne Perry:

“At 3 a.m. on a frigid January night in 1970, we finally cut the rhythm track for our first single ‘Mr. Bus Driver,’ on Jewel’s new 8-track Ampex recorder.  We needed a B-side — fast and cheap.  In desperation, we wrote our first original song, a strange mix of soul and bubblegum, in my boss’s factory office.  We didn’t even have a guitar handy.   Workers drifted past, watching as we gyrated and sang in the tiny windowed office.  They must have thought we were lunatics.  We soon returned to Jewel to record our newly-written oddity, ‘Gimme the Green Light,’ on Rusty’s older 4-track Ampex.  (He charged less to use it because it was paid off)”:

“Gimme the Green Light”     Wayne Perry     1970

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Gimme the Green Light” by Wayne Perry]

Wayne Perry at Counterpart Creative Studios

Wayne PerryThis 45 would be released 3 years later as Counterpart 3745 in September, 1973.  Label below shows that Gene Lawson – inventor of Lawson Microphones – engineered this single.

Pretend this is the B-side “Gimme the Green Light”

Wayne Perry 45

As it turns out, this B-side would be Cincinnati’s contribution to a bona fide Ohio bubblegum scene via Oxford’s The Lemon Pipers (psych-pop hit, “My Green Tamborine“) and Mansfield’s Ohio Express (“Yummy in My Tummy“).  Fortunately, “Gimme the Green Light’s” horns make for a much funkier confection.