Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grant Smith and the Power, debut 45, a soul version of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep on Running’

 Organist Val Stevens, guitarist Les Morris, bassist Mike Harrison, Jerry Mann on saxophone, and drummer Charlie Miller and his brother Ralph Miller (trumpet) had been playing together in the rock-soul group, Eddie Spencer & The Power since October 1966 when a decision was made on 1 January 1967 to introduce a new frontman, singer Ellis Grant Smith, together with guitarist Jim Pauley to replace Les Morris, from rival band E G Smith & The Express. At the same time, Brian “Otis” Ayers, who had previously played with Ralph Miller in The Beau Keys, replaced Jerry Mann on sax. Two weeks later, another former Express member and second drummer, Wayne “Stoney” Stone joined.

During its first year of existence, the group established a solid fan base on the Toronto live circuit, billed either as E G Smith & The Power or as Grant Smith & The Power. Shortly after a show at the Broom and Stone in neighbouring Scarborough, on June 27, 1967, Charlie Miller left the band. Reduced to a single drummer, Grant Smith & The Power headed to the United States for the next two months for live work. On returning to Toronto in early September, Jim Pauley left and was replaced by guitarist Jon Palma.

In New York, the band were offered a deal by Tony Orlando, and promptly recorded their debut single, a soul version of “Keep on Running”, previously a hit for The Spencer Davis Group, coupled with Smith and Stevens’ “Her Own Life”, came out in January 1968 and featured the revised line up (as did a second single on MGM). Both singles were recorded with guest sax player, Steve Kennedy, at Toronto music mogul Art Snider’s Sound Canada studios.

Soon afterwards, Palma left and new guitarist Kenny Marco, who had played with Ayres and Ralph Miller in The Beau Keys during the mid-‘60s (and in the interim, The Upset), was recruited. Around this time, Grant Smith & The Power opened for The Hollies and Spanky & Our Gang at Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre on March 17, 1968. The following month, the band headed off for another US trip, supporting the likes of Janis Joplin, Traffic and Rare Earth.

Thursday, March 26, 2009



The Grooms "I Deserve A Little Bit More"

In the 1960's when Atlantic, Staxs, and Motown records were at there peak. In Norfolk Va. there was SHIPTOWN records headed by the original "Mr. Biggs" Noah H. Biggs. Mr. Biggs developed his company by giving young kids [artists] with a strong desire to sing and perform achance. Most believe that if Mr.Biggs would have had a stronger desire to make money rather than helping to develop the young artist talent,maybe Shiptown would have been the Atlantic or the Motown of the 60'sand 70's.

The Shiptown talent pool could rival any other labels talent pool in that era. Mr. Biggs produced hundreds of records. His talent consists of the bands The House Rockers, the Positive Sounds band [Amos Hunteron drums, James Carver on sax guitar player lil-Mike stood out on many of Shiptown's recording sessions. The Positive Sounds [I almost blew mymind] is a collector's item to this day. Then there was The Anglos featuring Joe Webster aka "little daddy", Big Rob, Eugene, and Baby,there hit "Small town boy" is also a collectors item till this day! TheDream Team, The Idets, Wilson Williams, Art Ensley, Flip Flop Stevens["Come on let's do that thing" another collectors item] The Grooms,Shirley Johnson, The Fabulous Pop-Tops, The Showmen [featuring Norman"General" Johnson later of The Chairmen of the Board] who's hits are still beach music giants today! Next there's the beautiful and soulful Barbara Stant whose hits are some of today's biggest Northern soul's classics Then there's little Ida; Ida Sands who was dubbed Shiptown's Dianna Ross unquestionably one of the most talented singers in the country and also the other half of the Soul Duo along with Joe Webster who's song "Sad Xmas" has been a major hit until this very day.

Shiptown Records was one of very few black record companies in the 60'sand 70's to be booked in white clubs and on all white concerts, which was the start of what is called East Coast Beach Music today! Noah "Mr.Biggs" Biggs worked out a relationship between "Nimrods" his very own booking agency and Levin-Herman a company run by two young white kidsto cross over in the music market which was very successful for them both.

Noah the original "Mr. Biggs" also promoted concerts with performances by not only Shiptown's artist, but along with other major acts such as Al Green, Dianna Ross and the Supremes, The Stylistics, The Delfonics,James Brown, James Cleveland, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and many manyothers including the Isley Brothers who's Mr. Biggs has got to be a result of Noah "Mr.Biggs" Biggs who's trade mark was; sharply dressed,always suit and tie, along with matching brimmed hats! You tell us.

Noah "Mr. Biggs" Biggs passed away in 1978 but his legacy and style lives on today! Now comes "Mr. Biggs II" the second generation. Howard"Mr. Biggs" Biggs the son of the late Noah Biggs brings you all the old and new "Shiptown/HowBig" Soul, Blues Funk and beach music sound that is so NEEDED today! In this day in time of saying anything on a song, we're bringing back good singing and good music for all to listen and to appreciate. We hope you'll enjoy it!

Thank you, "Mr.BIGGS"

Monday, March 23, 2009



Sunday, March 22, 2009


Mah Nà Mah Nà" debuted as part of Umiliani's soundtrack for the Italian mondo film Svezia, inferno e paradiso (Sweden: Heaven and Hell) (1968), a pseudo-documentary about wild sexual activity and other behavior in Sweden. The song accompanied a scene in the film set in a sauna. The lead part was sung by Italian singer/composer Alessandro Alessandroni.[1]The song also appeared on the 1968 soundtrack album released for the film.

"Mah Nà Mah Nà" was a hit in many countries in 1968–1969. In the U.S. it peaked at #55 in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and #44 on the Cash Box magazine chart in October 1969.In 1969, Henri Salvador recorded a variation titled "Mais Non, Mais Non" ("But No, But No" or "Of Course Not, Of Course Not"), with lyrics he had written in French to Umiliani's tune.

The song became familiar to many from its renditions by the Muppets on television. On 30 November, 1969, "Mahna Mahna" was performed on the The Ed Sullivan Show by a Muppet also known as Mahna Mahna, and the Snowths. Also in 1969, "Mahna Mahna" was performed on Sesame Street by a character that was later known as Bip Bipadotta, along with twoAnything Muppet girls.

During its 1969-70 season, "The Red Skelton Show" used the Umiliani recording as background music for a recurring blackout sketch. The otherwise silent bits featured Red and another performer, dressed as Moon creatures, playing with equipment left behind by the Project Apollo astronauts.

In 1973, a rendition of "Mah Nà Mah Nà" on the Moog synthesizer was released on the album More Hot Butter (Musicor MS 3254) by Hot Butter, best known for the pop tune "Popcorn". It was re-released on CD in 2000. In 1969, the first season of Sesame Street featured a sketch featuring two muppet girls who are unsure of what to do, until they decide to sing a song, enter an unusual-looking version of the latter Muppet character Mahna Mahna (whose named was later changed to Bip Bippadotta, so as to differenciate him from the Mahna Mahna character on The Muppet Show) who begins singing "Mahna Mahna", prompting the girls to join him.

In 1976, the first episode of The Muppet Show to be recorded (featuring Juliet Prowse), used "Mahna Mahna" as the first sketch. It was performed by the Muppets "Mahna Mahna and the Snowths". As a result, the original Piero Umiliani recording finally became a hit in the UK, where the Muppet Show soundtrack album featuring the Muppets' version went to number one.[2]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009




The Marathons of "Peanut Butter" (1961) fame featured on this page were actually the Vibrations. The Arvee label wanted to release another hit single but apparently could not wait for the Olympics (Arvee's then-main act) to get back from their tour. So Arvee signed on the Vibrations, then under contract with Chess, to record "Peanut Butter." What followed was a really sticky situation which led to various re-recordings of "Peanut Butter" by both the Vibrations (on Chess/Argo) and some unknown group scraped together by Arvee and given the Marathons moniker. Besides "Peanut Butter" (b/w "Talkin' Trash"), there were no other songs recorded by the Vibrations as the Marathons.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


THE BEATLES had not yet spearheaded "the British invasion" of pop music in the USA when Danny Smythe was given his first set of drums as a present on his fifteenth birthday in August of `63. While still learning to play, he responded to an announcement posted by two guitarists from Memphis' Bartlett High School, Mike Wright and Ronnie Carnie. They were looking for a drummer "to start a band". Wright, Carnie, Smythe, and bassist Freddie Schaeffer formed the group. Like many groups from the during that period, they named themselves after a popular car of the time. In this case, the name chosen was THE DEVILLES, a derivative of Cadillac's Coupe De Ville.

At the time live music was everywhere in Memphis Tennessee, and opportunities to play abounded. High schools typically held proms, sock hops, and fund raisers; social clubs and fraternities/sororities frequently found reasons to throw parties. Even YMCA's, roller skating rinks, and any place frequented by teens with enough room held dances. Local groups, often with limited experience, provided the music. They cost little to hire, but could fill venues with the live music sound needed to create excitement in these days before disco and its expensive and powerful sound systems. The groups could gain experience performing, sample the party food and drinks, and even earning a little spending money! And so it was that THE DEVILLES developed a strong following performing at these local events.

When Schaeffer left the group to join THE SCEPTERS, a well-established local recording group, Russ Caccamisi (a schoolmate of Smythe's) assumed the role of bassist. In addition to playing the sousaphone in his high school band, Caccamisi had played bass for another local Memphis group called THE CHANTELLES.

Later Wright and Carnie left the group and were replaced by guitarists Bill Fargie and Richard Malone. Since Fargie and Malone did not sing, the group was forced to audition vocalists. Lead vocalist Steve Jourden brought with him to the audition two other singers--Ronnie Jordan and Mike Moseley. The three vocalists ultimately joined the group, and THE DEVILLES began to present themselves as a singing group--lead vocalist and two background vocalists--with a backing rhythm section comprised of two guitars, bass, and drums.

As the group began to play more British-style pop, Jordan began to sing lead on more songs because of his particular style, tone, and delivery. When background vocalist Moseley left the group, both Jourden and Jordan shared the role of lead-singer, each offering his own specialty-- Jourden sang the soul music songs and Jordan sang the British pop songs.

In the days before cable TV, music videos, and ROLLING STONE magazine, disk jockeys were the music authorities. As a result, radio stations often received calls from people in their listening area who were looking for live entertainment. Local DJs named Johnny Dark and Roy Mack (Ronnie Jordan's uncle who worked for WMPS) began booking THE DEVILLES. The group began to play in small towns around the Memphis area. Eventually DJ Roy Mack became their de facto manager by getting the group the most work.


The Box Tops began as The Devilles, who had started playing in Memphis in 1963. As the band's personnel changed from time to time, so did the band name on occasion, which at one point became "Ronnie and The Devilles" and then later changed back to "The Devilles". By January 1967 the group was composed of founding member Danny Smythe (drums) (b.25 Aug1948MemphisTennessee), along with newer arrivals John Evans (guitar, keyboards, background vocals) (b.18 Jun 1948, Memphis, last seen 2000), Chilton (lead vocal, guitar)(b.28 Dec1950, Memphis), Bill Cunningham (bass guitar, keyboards, background vocal) (b.23 Jan 1950, Memphis), and Gary Talley (lead guitar, electric sitar, bass, background vocal) (b.17 Aug1947, Memphis). They were soon renamed a final time. They changed their name to "Box Tops" to prevent confusion with another band recording at the time with the name "The Devilles".

As the Box Tops, they recorded Wayne Carson Thompson's "The Letter." Though under two minutes in length, it was an international hit in late 1967, reaching Billboard's number-one position and remaining there for four weeks. The record, produced by Dan Penn, sold over four million copies and received two Grammy awards nominations. Their single "Cry Like a Baby"was a major hit in 1968, peaking at number two on Billboard, and has been covered by such artists as the Hacienda Brothers and Kim Carnes. The album of the same name contained a song written by Spooner Oldham and Penn, "Fields of Clover." Some of their recordings' instrumental tracks were performed by session musicians like Reggie Young, Tommy Cogbill, Gene Chrisman, and Bobby Womack at Moman's American Sound Studio, and by future Chilton producer Terry Manning at Ardent Studios, although the actual group members performed on a number of the recordings, including their first hit, "The Letter," and on all live performances.

By January 1968, John Evans and Danny Smythe returned to school and were replaced by Rick Allen (b.28 Jan 1946, Little Rock, Arkansas) (from The Gentrys) and Thomas Boggs (b.16 Jul 1947, Wynn, Arkansas, d. 5 May 2008, Memphis, Tennessee.) (from the Board of Directors). The band recorded seven more singles, including the Moman-produced "Soul Deep,"which was the group's final Top 40 entry. Bill Cunningham left to return to school in August 1969 and was replaced by Harold Cloud. But eventually, the group's tolerance for the disrespect and fleecing they had endured as teen musicians from managers, lawyers, and promoters they had made rich came to an end. According to a 2004 article in by Talley, a December 1969 British tour was cancelled by the band after arriving in London to discover that instead of respecting the rider agreement, the local promoter insisted they play the tour with the opening reggae act's toy drums, public address system amplifiers (instead of proper guitar amplifiers), and a keyboard with a broken speaker. Finally, in February 1970, the remaining founding members, Talley and Chilton, were ready to move on and disbanded the group.