“Mighty Time”: New Riders + Sly Stone & Jerry Garcia

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

George Harrison & Don Nix

“Hello L.A., Bye-Bye Birmingham”: The Other John(ny) Marr

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.

John Randolph MarrWould 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.

John Randolph Marr 8 Track labelI am eternally grateful to A Light in the Attic for bringing this song to my attention.   Funky16Corners nobly attempts to nail down who recorded the original version.

“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 one and only outing, Solid Gold from Muscle Shoals:

“Sugar Sugar”     The Fame Gang     1969

Meet the Band

Freeman Brown — drums

Jesse Boyce — bass

Junior Lowe — guitar

Clayton Ivey — piano & organ

Harrison Calloway — trumpet

Aaron Varnell — tenor & alto sax

Harvey Thompson — tenor sax

Ronnie Eades — baritone sax

Mickey Buckins — producer/arranger

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

                .                                         .                                        .

                         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.

“A Satisfied Mind”: Country Meets Soul

Country meets soul in Roberta Sherwood‘s updated version of “A Satisfied Mind” – a home run of a hit, originally, for Starday in the mid-50s during the label’s early years:

A Satisfied Mind – Roberta Sherwood

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to hear Roberta Sherwood cover ”A Satisfied Mind.” ]

“A Satisfied Mind” was the B-side of “That’s Why I Woke Him Up to Say Goodbye” – one of two singles King Records released from Sherwood’s 1970 album, This Good Life.A Satisfied Mind 45 - Roberta Sherwood

Often described as a torch singer, Roberta Sherwood recorded a number of albums for Decca in the 1950s & 60s.

Roberta Sherwood