Jaded ears may be crying over hearing this warhorse again. This horse can still kick however in the hands of a master. Case in point – Detroit vocalist Spyder Turner’s version.
This novelty take of “Stand By Me” includes impersonations of Jackie Wilson, David Ruffin, Billy Stewart, Chuck Jackson and Smokey Robinson and comes from Turner’s audition tape to MGM. The phrasing in the beginning demonstrates that Turner is a great singer in his own right. The masses agreed and in ’67 “Stand by Me” hit #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Soul charts.
If you have seen veteran R&B performers live they often include a song in which they mimic other performer’s vocals and moves. They may have even done it to this song. Chalk another one up for Spyder Turner.
The Death story. Three brothers from Detroit, Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney form funk/r&b band in 1972. Convert to rock n’ roll after witnessing Alice Cooper concert in 1973. Rename themselves “Death.” Put out 500 copies of a self released 7” in 1976: “Politicians in My Eyes” b/w “Keep on Knocking,” on their Tryangle label after the majors turn them down over their refusal to change their name. Band members move to Vermont and musically move on to gospel/rock with 4th Movement, and then reggae with Lambsbread. Lead guitarist David Hackney dies in 2000.
Album’s worth of material surfaces on master tape after one of Bobby’s sons hears the ‘76 single at a party in San Francisco in 2009 and recognizes his dad’s voice. Sons soon discover the Tryangle release has become legendary among punk/hardcore collectors. Bobby Sr. digs out Death master tapes from attic. Sons form Rough Francis as a tribute band to play Death’s largely unheard material and further the legacy. Drag City puts out Death LP “For the Whole World to See” in 2009. NY Times: “Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a missing link between the high-energy hard rock of Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk from its breakthrough years of 1976 and ’77.” Death reforms with the Hackney brothers and Lambsbread guitarist Bobbie Duncan in 2009.
Before his death in 2000, David gave Death master tapes to brother Bobby for safekeeping and told him “you’ve got to keep all this stuff, the world’s going to come looking for it one day.”
Stomp architect/musician/writer Michael Hurtt chronicled the prolific, inspiring and enduring career of the Detroit soul survivor in a 2009 Metro Times Feature.
The story of Melvin Davis is emblematic of Detroit. A working man in a working man’s town, he seized on his talent and passion to weave himself into the musical fabric of one of the most soulful cities in America. With his hands in everything that Motor City music had to offer, Davis’ unmistakable touch — though mostly unheralded in its time — endures today.
Davis spent three decades in Detroit working every aspect of the music business as a vocalist, musician, bandleader, studio man, writer, promoter and more -and worked with with a dizzying number of the regions finest musicians, labels and bands. Recently out of retirement, Davis will perform as part of the Motor City Soul Revue along with Dennis Coffey, Spyder Turner and The Velvelettes at the upcoming Detroit Breakdown.
Hurtt chronicles the origins of “I Won’t Be Your Fool” thusly…
Davis’ Fortune single, “Playboy,” began to pick up airplay, but when the Browns left the city for a three-week vacation, the promotion — and the record — died on the vine. The 45′s flipside, “I Won’t Be Your Fool” remains one of Davis’ most infectious recordings. Its stream-of-consciousness lovelorn lyrics are Davis at his finest, resigned-yet-passionate, sung by one whose experience transcends his youth. Superb backup vocals lock in with soulful guitar chords and an irresistible bass line, all driven by Butch Vaden’s explosive drumming.
Born and raised in rough-and-tumble Phenix City, Alabama, where he still resides today, Ralph “Soul” Jackson” grew up in a musical household. After a childhood spent tinkering with the piano while other boys played ball, Jackson penned an original called “Don’t Tear Yourself Down” during his senior year in high school and sent a demo of it off to Rick Hall in Muscle Shoals. The next thing he knew, Ralph was recording at Hall’s Fame Studio with the same band that backed the likes of Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Arthur Conley.
In 1975 he cut a single for Neal Hemphill’s Birmingham-based Black Kat label, “Set Me Free” b/w “Take Me Back.” Considered a “Northern Soul” classic, it has been released on the CD “The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill” by Rabbit Factory as well as reissued on a Dusty Groove 45.
“Soul” will be appearing Thursday, July 8th, from 6pm-8pm at the Ogden Museum After Hours in collaboration with the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation for a performance and interview.