“Sugar Sugar”: Solid Gold from Muscle Shoals

“Sugar Sugar” was inescapable in the summer of 1969, with Wilson Pickett and even The Wailers (with Bob Marley singing lead) recording their own versions.  Muscling in on the action also were the studio musicians behind the hits being recorded in the late 60s at Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama – The Fame Gang – who put together a (near) instrumental version for their lone LP, Solid Gold from Muscle Shoals:

Sugar Sugar – The Fame Gang

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Sugar Sugar” by The Fame Gang.]

Solid Gold - Fame Gang LP

That’s right, as the sticker indicates, there is an “expanded” version of this 1969 album that includes four additional tracks:  “Soul Feud”; “Grits and Gravy“; “Twangin’ My Thang”; and “Turn the Chicken Loose.”   Two of these non-LP tracks — “Soul Feud” backed with  “Grits and Gravy” — were issued as a 45 in August 1969 on the Fame label.

Grits & Gravy 45

Meet the Band

Freeman Brown – drums

Jesse Boyce – bass

Junior Lowe – guitar

Clayton Ivey – piano & organ

Harrison Calloway – trumpet

Harvey Thompson – Tenor Sax

Ronnie Eades – baritone sax

Aaron Varnell – tenor & alto sax

Mickey Buckins – producer/arranger

                   .                                         .                                           .

                         The Fame Studio Sidemen – Waves of Musicians

The Fame Gang, as it turns out, were the third “rhythm section” in Fame Studio’s long and illustrious history.  It was Arthur Alexander’s big 1961 hit, “You Better Move On,” that earned enough money to finance the building of Fame’s bricks-and-mortar studio, where Rick Hall assembled his first full-time session players, a group that included Norbert Putnam, Spooner Oldham, Terry Thompson, and David Briggs, among others.  The next rhythm section, easily the most renowned of the four, comprised Jimmy Johnson, David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, and Junior Lowe (and sometimes Duane Allman) and was the backing group for Aretha Franklin on her groundbreaking “I Never Loved a Man” session in 1967.  However, on March 20, 1969, Johnson, Hood, Beckett, and Hawkins formally announced to Rick Hall their intention to open the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in nearby Sheffield.  Hall immediately assembled another top-flight team of talent and then – coincidentally or not – allowed them to put out this full-length release.  More history on the Fame Studio rhythm section musicians can be found at this link.

“Truck Driver”: Pop Goes the Diesel from The Archies

1968 was a great year for truck driving songs:  “Big Rig Rolling Man” by Johnny Dollar,   “My Big Truck Driving Man” by Kitty Wells, “Gear Bustin’ Sort of Feller” by Bobby Braddock, “There Ain’t No Easy Run” by Dave Dudley, “I Want to Be a Truck Driver’s Sweetheart” by Marcie Dickerson, “Somebody Stole My Rig” by Shel Silverstein, “The Truck Drivin’ Cat with Nine Wives” by Jim Nesbitt … and “Truck Driver” by The Archies:

Written by legendary songwriter and Archies mastermind, Jeff Barry, “Truck Driver” was the B-side to “Bang-Shang-a-Lang” – The Archies’ debut 45 released in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Rhodesia.

Archies - Truck Driver 45

The rough, scratchy version featured here actually comes from a 12″  Archies compilation, Jingle Jangle, on the Kirshner label, that features fun cover art:

Archies - Jingle Jangle LP

“It’s sunshine, love – the sparkle of young, spirited voices creating clean, pure fun with their music.  The comic-strip American characters, creations of John L. Goldwater, are bright, happy teen-agers and always have been.  As American as baseball, as popular on the international scene as jet travel and still as uncomplicated as a frisky puppy.  The Archies build up with good nature rather than tearing down with bitterness and disillusionment….

This has been the year of the Astronauts landing on the moon, the Mets, and the Archies.  Not only are all three sensational but each one holds a promise of more to come.  Have fun with the Archies.  Delight in the Jingle Jangle of their sound.” 

    Liner notes from back cover