Oh, what a mighty find at the local thrift shop last week — the title track from this 1975 album by New Riders of the Purple Sage – with special guests, Sly Stone and Jerry Garcia:
“Mighty Time” New Riders of the Purple Sage with Sly & Jerry 1975
Skip Battin: Bass, Vocals & Percussion Buddy Cage: Pedal Steel & Vocal John Dawson: Guitar, Vocals, Autoharp & Mouth Harp, et al. Spencer Dryden: Drums, Percussion & Vocal David Nelson: Guitar, Vocal & Percussion Sly Stone: Organ, Piano & Vocal Jerry Garcia: Guitar
Behind the mixing console is none other than Bob Johnston, who famously produced Dylan and Cash in the 1960s. Oh, What a Mighty Time would be the band’s last album for almighty Columbia, who would not issue any 45s from this LP.
“Mighty Time” written by Don Nix, who is probably best known for having written blues standard, “Goin’ Down” and whose session work as a saxophonist – as exemplified on sax & organ instrumental, “Last Night” – helped define the Stax sound.
George Harrison & Don Nix off Catalina Island, 1971
Love the soulful harpsichord that opens this track from the only album ever recorded by John Randolph Marr:
“Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham” John Randolph Marr 1970
Such a memorable title for a tune few people have ever heard of – and yet this song has been recorded by Artie Christopher (1968); Kin Vassy, Gainsborough Gallery, Larry Henley & The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (1969); Nancy Sinatra, Eve, Mac Davis, Blue Cheer, Juicy Lucy, Goodness & Mercy, Nick Anthony & Smokestack Lightnin’ (1970); Dave Kelly & Max Merritt and the Meteors (1971); The Platters (!) & Bobby Whitlock (1972); John Dummer’s Oobleedooblee Band (1973) – and, more recently (2013), The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Therefore, it would seem that I am the one who’s rather late to the game.
Would you believe Harry “Mr. eddie’s Father” Nilsson produced this funky thing?
Such an obvious A-side – particularly given the many cover versions – and yet Warner Brothers felt it unworthy of even the flip side of the only single issued from this album.
How amusing/annoying to discover that the 8-track version of this album would cleave the song into two parts, hence, the forced fade at the end of part 1, at which point the 8-track would audibly “click” over to the next track of tape, followed then by the fade in of part 2 — in no way dishonoring or degrading the musical experience for the listener whatsoever.
“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 one and only outing, Solid Gold from Muscle Shoals:
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.