Classic Soul: MIGHTY MIGHTY DELLS, Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame, The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke’s Greatest Hits, Open Up My Heart The 911 Suite
- LISTEN TO: SOUL-PATROL’S TRIBUTE TO 2004 ROCK N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES – THE MIGHTY DELLS
World Famous Nightrain Radio Program, featuring Soul-Patrols Tribute to the Mighty Dells. Introduced by Soul-Patroller and Rock n Roll Hall of Famer, Terry Johnson of the Flamingos.
With commentary analysis and perspective on the 50 year career of black music legends Mighty Dells from nightrain and tha Funkoverlord, connecting the dots between the Mighty, Mighty Dells, Chicago Soul, Charles Stephany, EWF, Minnie Riperton, Vee Jay, Chess, Willie Dixon, Robert Townsand and the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Featuring music from the Dells Anthology (HIP-O Records): Dreams of Contentment, Oh, What a Night, Oh What a Nite, Pain In My Heart, There Is, Stay In My Corner, Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue, Love Is So Simple, Always Together, Open Up My Heart, Glory Of Love, Standing Ovation, Heart Is a Home For Love…
Be sure that when you listen, that you share it with your children I have 🙂
R.I.P. Marvin Junior – The Multi-Generational “Voice” of Black Culture
My very first encounter with the Dells was in 1969. I had just heard the song “Oh What a Night” on the radio in NYC. I was listening to the radio in my bedroom and of course I thought the song was off the hook. As the song was just about to end, my father walked in to the room and said:
Mr. Davis: What’s That you are listening to?
Young Earthjuice: It’s a brand new song.
Mr. Davis: That song isn’t new.
Young Earthjuice: Frankie Crocker just said that; “it’s the brand new release from the Dells.”
Mr. Davis: It may be a new release, but that song is old as dirt. It first came out when I was a teenager and the guy singing it has to be at least my age, if not older.
Sure enough, as I would later learn, via continuous listening to Frankie Crocker, the Dells had indeed originally released the song “Oh What a Night,” back in 1955. Frankie said that it had been a hit song and that the Dells were one of the few “doo wop” groups that were still around & kickin. He also said that the Dells lead singer Marvin Junior had co-written and sang on the original 1955 version of the song.
Years later when I met Marvin Junior, I told him that story. He told me that he has heard a variation of that same story many times from many different people. He said that every time he hears it that it made him smile because it means that the Dells are truly “multi-generational.”
And that they are. Marvin Junior might just be the single most influential “voice” in the history of Black music. His influence on male singers like Teddy Pendergrass, David Ruffin, Cee Lo Green and others are quite obvious. Other influences are just as powerful, but perhaps not quite so obvious. Take for example of friend Chuck D, front man of the legendary rap group Public Enemy. A few years ago, Chuck D. told me that when he first started, he intentionally set out to sound as much like Marvin Junior as possible. I didn’t quite believe him, so I decided to spend an afternoon listening to Public Enemy songs & Dells songs, back to back to back. The vocal similarities are astounding. Chuck really does sound like Marvin. Not exactly, but “almost,” in the same kind of way that Teddy P. & David Ruffin did.
So one way we can think about Marvin Junior is that his influence runs from “doo wop to hip hop.”
But more important would be to think about and consider, exactly why Marvin would have such a multi-generational influence?
Well I think that is also painfully obvious. Marvin’s voice is that of a proud and virile Black man. It is of someone who recognizes the struggle that he faces and faces it head on. It is a voice of teachers & preachers. It is a voice that all men who want to influence others would want to emulate. It is in fact the voice of leadership. Listen carefully to speeches of people like MLK, Jessie Jackson, Louis Farakkahan & others. Listen to the voices of some of your favorite Black politicians, DJ’s, actors, etc. Don’t many of them sound like they are emulating the voice of Marvin Junior?
All of this may just be too much to think about or to consider, after all wasn’t this man just a singer? Or even just a great singer?
Well perhaps you are correct?
Perhaps it is all too complex to think about?
Maybe I should just let it go?
After all, the whole topic of Rhythm & Blues itself is a pretty complex topic, and perhaps it’s complexity is best left alone and we should simply focus on the songs?
Marvin Junior wasn’t really what you would consider “computer literate.”
However he was quite interested in Soul-Patrol.com. He told me that he would have someone print out many of the things I had written, and whenever I would see him, we would have conversations about some of the topics I had written about.
Once backstage Marvin said to me; “Bob one of the reasons that I like you so much is because you understand that Rhythm & Blues is a complex thing.”
Of course I knew just where he was going, but I could tell that he wanted to let it all out, so I said to him…
How so Marvin?
Marvin said;“One of the reasons why some Americans prefer Blues over Rhythm and Blues, is because Blues is pretty simple. Blues is easy to play and it’s easy to relate to. Blues is straightforward, simple, and reflects a back to a time that is simple and uncomplicated. Rhythm and Blues on the other hand was born first of the complexities of the great migration of Blacks from the south, then the complexities of WW II and the integration movement of the 1950’s/1960’s. Rhythm and Blues is complex, it’s harder to play, harder to interpret, it’s complicated and carries with it implications for America that some Americans don’t want to deal with.”
Of course I smiled and when I did, I thought about all of the people from the major music publications who questioned why the Dells belonged in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. They told me that they thought the Dells weren’t significant enough, that they hadn’t accomplished enough, etc. I could look into their eyes and know what they were really thinking.
They were thinking; “the Dells are nothing but a broken down, bunch of dumb doo wop singers, who in no way shape or form belong in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.”
They never bothered to get to know Marvin Junior.
And that was their loss.
They just might have missed out on their opportunity to learn something about Rhythm and Blues, but also about the true origins of Rock n Roll, from one of it’s masters!
But then again, maybe that is what they were afraid of?
Back to that “leadership thing” for just a moment….
Whenever I was around Marvin and started talking about artists like Smokey Robinson or Lionel Ritchie, Marvin would always say the same thing…
“Bob, what I don’t understand is why when these guys decide to go solo, they don’t take the rest of the group with them? Seems to me that even as a solo artist, you still need background singers, why not keep the same background singers who made you successful in the first place? After all, these are the people who best know how to maximize your strengths & minimize your weaknesses…”
Now to be perfectly clear, speaking as someone who knows the Dells very well, I can tell you that the Dells don’t have a “leader.”
They are the shining example of “harmony” on multiple levels, which each member making a valuable contribution to the whole, if often unseen by the general public. Notice I didn’t say that they always agree on everything. But they always found a way to make “harmony” out of a disagreement. That’s the reason why the Dells have been together for so long, unlike many of their contemporaries.
But Marvin was their lead singer, on most of their songs. And he certainly could have become a “solo artist” had he wanted to. But instead he stands as a shining example of “leadership among equals.” And that my friend is something that we can all take inspiration from.
RIP – Marvin Junior
NOTE: Marvin Junior will have private services.
RIP Johnnie Carter (Dells & Flamingos)
Johnnie Carter passed away last week. It wasn’t a shock to me, because I had been aware that he had been ill for quite some time. Johnnie was truly one of the greatest singers of his generation and quite possibly the greatest 1st Tenor in the history of popular music. IMHO Johnnie Carter together with Marvin Junior comprise the very best “hi-lo combination’ in the history of Black music (yes even better than Ruffin/Kendricks.)
Unlike most of his peers from the world of Black Music that we could discuss here, Johnnie Carter did in fact recive his props from the music industry. He is one of just a handful of artists who has been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice. That puts him in the company of artists such as Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Michael Jackson. In other words, be it by accident or by design he has been awarded the highest possible accolades that an artist can receive from the music industry. I just thought that you all needed to be aware of that simple fact!!!
However none of this is what I will remember most about Johnnie Carter. What I will remember most about Johnnie Carter is what the picture of him that you see above conveys. Johnnie Carter was one hell of a guy, who accepted me into the Dells family from day one. He always had a joke for you, sometime clean, but mostly dirty 🙂 He was a person who loved life to the fullest and who made it his business to make certain that you always walked away from him with a smile.
Yes indeed, Johnnie Carter was a great singer, but more importantly he was my friend and I will miss him more than any words that I could write could ever tell you…
Album Review: The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke’s Greatest Hits
1. I’ll Never Fall In Love Again
2. Walk On By
3. This Guy’s In Love With You
4. Raindrops Keep Fallin On My Head
5. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
6. Close To You
7. Trains & Boats & Planes
8. A House Is Not a Home
9. I Say a Little Prayer
11. Wives & Lovers
This album is a Chess records reissue, originally released in 1972, back when I was in 11th grade and wouldn’t have paid it any mind because this album doesn’t have anything to do with pushing any teenaged girls up against a basement wall in the dark.
However if you are a little older than an 11th grader, you will find quite a bit here to enjoy and savor with your significant other, who should also be a bit beyond the 11th grade as well.
If you are looking for outakes from the “70’s Soul Jam”, just keep on steppin. Because if you dare to stick THIS album into your CD player, ger ready instead for some “revolutionary pop music.”
There are those times when it becomes a requirement to listen to an album in the manner that an album was meant to be listened to. Especially when it comes to listening to a blast from the past, that embodies all that I thought that I knew, but in reality never really knew, until this particular moment in time.
An album in my opinion was meant to be listened to as if it was an event. Back in the day, the mere purchase of an album was cause in and of itself to be a celebration. It meant that you would at some point in time, shortly after making the purchase allocate a period of time to do nothing else but just listen to that album, preferably with headphones on. So when you listen to this album, don’t do what I did, instead create an event for yourself to experience all that is going on here, so that you don’t miss anything.
This is an album I had to listen to twice, before sitting down to compose this piece. That’s because the very first time I listened to it I made the mistake of listening to it in the car, during a family “daytrip”. You know, with the kids screaming, and the wife telling me that I missed the exit 10 miles ago.
This isn’t the type of an album that you can listen to in that fashion. You have to listen to this album for the very first time alone, and with headphones. If you don’t you might just miss the obvious.
It’s old fashioned.
It’s reflective of the timeframe that it was created in.
It’s a MONSTER JAM, however you need to be in the “bat cave” in order to listen to it.
But more importantly, you need to have a 1972 frame of mind when you are listening.
In 1972, I was in the 11th grade and of course I thought that I knew everything about everything.
And one of those things that I thought that I knew everything about was the Dells.
1. You get the voices of the Mighty Dells, at the peak of their powers.
2. You get the songwriting of Burt Bacharach and Hal David
3. You get the musical genius of Charles Stephany, producing.
So imagine the following…Earth, Wind & Fire (sorta) + the FUNK of the Pharaohs + Phil Upchurch + the Dells + Some of the greatest pop music songs of it’s generation.
Some of these songs are “dated” and sound “1960 ish”, however we also know that “dated/1960 ish”, just won 5 Grammy Awards.
This is the type of music that in 1972, armed with my own infinite knowledge of the Dells and possessing all of the wisdom that a typical 11th grader would have had, would have written off very quickly.
However today at the age of 51, it sounds like innovative pop music, with a serious edge. And that is EXACTLY what it is…
Track #2 (“WALK ON BY”)is a masterpiece, starting with the Charles Stephany led orchestra (acoustic EWF if you will) in a symphonic mode, the “background Dells” (Chuck, Mickey and Vern) singing….”If You See Me Walking Down the Street….”, and then (first) Johnnie Carter and
(then) Marvin Junior singing as a duet singing “WALK ON BY”. Then it just turns into a vocal feast combining acapella backgrounds, solos, duets, trios, just a touch of funk and more. It’s almost as though the Dells are multiple groups, singing together, separately, in sequence, out of sequence and more. It’s pure magic!!!
The Dells version of “Walk on By”, just might be the best that I have ever heard them sing and more important that what I think, it seems that Charles Stephany agrees with me, because he seems to have tailored the instrumentation (including horns & strings) to compliment the Dells voices in a manner that neither you nor I have ever heard before.
Trust me, you have NEVER and NEVER will hear the Dells sing as well together as you will on this song! It alone is worth the price of admission.
However there is more….
– On “Close To You”, they sound like a 1950’s jazz vocal group (which they were when they backed Dinah Washington)
– On “A House is Not a Home”, you quickly forget that Luther Vandross ever sang the song
– “I Say A Little Prayer” is a showcase for Johnny Carter (the man who can sing anything)
– “Alfie” is done with Phil Upchurch leading the way on electric guitar and Johnny Carter on lead and absolutely tearing up those beautiful words, almost as a solo artist.
– “Wives & Lovers” is interesting, because we get to hear Chuck Barksdale on lead and wonder what the possibilities might have been…
So at the end of the day, you get the Dells presented as not a “doo wop” or “slow jam” group, but as multi dimensional “pop artists”, with an edge. I have heard the Dells in many situations and with many different types of material. And now after listening to this album it leaves me with more questions than answers.
There are moments of true brilliance here that need to be heard to be appreciated as the masterpieces that they are.
Yet at the same time it also feels like a bunch of brothas in the studio, who said…
“we could just kick their azz anytime we feel like it, so just for the heck of it, let’s just do it and record it…”
And sometimes in music, just like in basketball, you just have to kick their azz, simply because you can…
Find out more about this album at:
The Dells Sing Dionne Warwicke’s Greatest Hits
My Day with Chuck Barksdale of the Mighty Dells (8/19/2007)
I mean, after all, in reality, who am I to think that anyone should be interested in anything that I might have to say about anything? In fact, the only true way of knowing with any sense of realism if anyone even bothers to read what I write, would be if someone replied with a response, right?
Usually whenever we write something on the internet, you just simply have to take it on faith that “someone else” is out there reading it, even when there is no written feedback.
So as a result I learned long ago to simply accept the fact that “someone else” is gonna read what I write, that is something that I have to believe in. Because if I don’t believe it, then for me there is no point in writing at all. I have to feel that the act of writing something down and sending it out is going to have an impact, even if it’s a small one. In short, I have to feel that I have a “fan” out there, “someone else” that I am communicating with, even if that communication is “one way.” Communication is a basic human need and in many ways, its one of the primary purposes that is filled by the internet.
Well I know that I have at least one “fan” out there. “Someone else” that I know is reading whatever I write, be it “profound”, “silly” or “stupid”.
And that person would be Mr. Chuck Barksdale, best known as the bass singer of the Dells, and this past Monday I got to spend the better part of 5 hours with Chuck in a hotel room just outside of Philadelphia.
It is said that when Lyndon Johnson was the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, he was able to get many things done, because of his physical size. It is said that Lyndon Johnson was able to actually change the votes of his fellow US Senators, by simply putting his hand on their shoulder as he talked with them, using his physical size as an intimidating factor within the context of the conversation. Chuck Barksdale is a big dude. He is “NBA power forward sized” and combined with his deep bass voice is an imposing and intimidating conversationalist, much as I would imagine that Lyndon Johnson was as a United States Senator. To be in a hotel room with him for 5 hours means that you are going to be doing a whole lot more listening than you will talking. And that is why he is the “spokesperson” for the Dells. Some people say that Soul-Patrol got the Dells into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. No doubt we played a role in that. However I always tell people that it was Chuck Barksdale who got the Dells into the ROCK N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME. I personally watched him lobby and schmoose the members of the ROCK N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME Nominating committee with the same kind of political skills that Lyndon Johnson must have used in the United States Senate.
At this point in time, I have now known Chuck Barksdale for about 10 years.
Of course I have really known Chuck Barksdale for almost 40 years and have been a fan of his for at least that long. That does because it was Chuck Barksdale who introduced not only me, but my entire generations to the music of the Dells back in 1969 when he said the words “Do You Remember A Night….” It is the bass voice of Chuck Barksdale that you hear at the beginning of the Dells AWESOME remake of their 1955 hit called “Oh What a Night”. This is one case where the “remake smokes the original” because they “modernized” the original with Chuck Barksdale’s “stoopid funky” spoken word intro and it became an even bigger hit than the original. I’m certain that I have listened to that song at least 1,000 times. And I listened to it what seems like 1,000 more times at the rehearsal for the Dells induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. And on that day as good as the song is, it never sounded better.
That’s how long I have been a fan of Chuck Barksdale.
A few years ago backstage at one of the Dells concerts, Chuck pulled me aside and told me…
“Bob, I just wanted to let you know, that although I may not post a written reply to you, I read EVERYTHING that you write. I also wanted to let you know that I am never going to write you a reply. It’s just much easier for me to call you on the phone, than for me to type out anything. So if I have a reply, I’m just going to call you, ok?”
So it turns out that Chuck Barksdale is a “fan” of mine and he reads what I write. Nothing could make me happier.
The stated reason why I was to meet Chuck in his hotel room, was because I was going there with my laptop computer & microphone, to record his “spoken word intro’s” for the two songs that the Dells are donating to the “Soul-Patrol Virtual Album 1.0.” So in other words, I am going to be recording the spoken word intro’s of the man who is the master of the spoken word intro. Chuck didn’t really have to do that. He could have recorded the intro and sent it to me. As intimate as the internet sometimes appears to be, it can also be cold and impersonal. But that’s not the kind of person that he is. Chuck wanted to personally give me the intro so that I could give it to Soul-Patrol. It’s totally personal and totally in line with the way that things are supposed to be.
We quickly got thru with the recording and then we just talked.
And we talked.
And we talked.
The time flew and I felt like I had just completed a college course called “How To Be Real Black Man” (When the rest of the world wants you to be a n*gger). It was an American history lesson for sure, as told to me the way that only a person who had actually been there could tell the story. Talk about “connecting the dots”. Names like Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Lola Falana, Miles Davis, Kenny Gamble, Harvey Fuqua, Louis Farrakhan, O’Jays, Blue Magic, Prince, Herman Lubinsky, Frank Sinatra and more all interwoven in a story that mostly can’t be repeated at this time. It’s a story that probably can’t be written, till Chuck is no longer here to read it and then call me up with a reply. But it’s an American history lesson that he felt that I should know. And he was right because it should be written down, so that it can be passed along. And in the very best oral tradition of a true griot, Chuck laid the story out for me, so that I can tell it one day.
In addition to “the story”, the conversation was filled with advice and guidance for me on multiple levels. That’s because Chuck Barksdale is a “fan” of mine. I have learned over the years that when older people want to take the time to impart some of their wisdom to me, that is the time for me to keep my mouth shut and to listen. So I absorbed Chuck’s advice not simply because he was an older person giving me a shot of wisdom. You see it means just that much more coming from Chuck, because he really is a “fan” of mine. And he cares enough about me to want to impart that wisdom to me in person and alone.
Writing on the internet sometimes has the feeling of being alone in the forest. When you are alone in the forest, you can yell, but you can never really be sure if anyone else can hear you. And when you write on the internet, you can never be certain if anyone else is even paying attention.
I am fortunate.
I know that whenever I write something on the internet, that there is always “someone else” who is ALWAYS reading what I write. That “someone else” is Chuck Barksdale.
And yes it is true; he is a “fan” of Bob Davis the writer.
But more importantly, Chuck Barksdale is a friend of mine and he wants the rest of yall to know that he is a friend of yours as well, even though, you will most likely never see it in writing from him….
Find out more about the Mighty, Mighty Dells at:
THE MIGHTY, MIGHTY DELLS ARE FINALLY IN THE ROCK N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME!!!