Tag Archives: 1964

Starring the legendary Harvey Scales!

Once upon a time, there were rock and soul and R&B revues that traveled the land, stopping at clubs, college rathskellers, frat houses, roadhouses and beer bars across the Midwest, then rocking the house. That scene, and those groups, are mostly long gone. But not quite.

A year ago, during an all-too-short couple of hours on the Fourth of July, I saw what may be one of the last of the original soul and R&B revues.

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Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds played before a couple of hundred people in a beer tent at Sawdust Days in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It qualified as a revue because the Seven Sounds — actually 10 players strong with a five-piece horn section, three guitarists, a drummer and a keyboard player — played a long instrumental jam before Harvey and his backup singer ever came out.

Some of those in the tent remembered Harvey from the glory days of the club circuit. Those folks are older now, in their 60s. They’re like my friend Mike in Ohio, who recalled this when I mentioned that I was going to see Harvey.

“Wow, saw him and the Sounds there at the Five Oaks in ’67.
An amazing night.”

Harvey Scales has been around that long.

Harvey — who by most accounts turns 73 this year, or is younger by his own account — grew up in Milwaukee and emerged on the scene as Twistin’ Harvey in 1961. In short order, he teamed up with the Seven Sounds, another Milwaukee group. They released a string of soul and R&B singles on the small Cuca and Magic Touch labels during the ’60s. Though not widely known, they are highly regarded among Northern soul fans.

Harvey Scales is one of the great characters of the American soul and R&B scene. To hear him tell it, he was the first black soul singer to make the rounds of Wisconsin venues outside Milwaukee and an early member of the Esquires, whose members were classmates at North Division High School in Milwaukee. (Listen to this great interview with the late Bob Abrahamian of Chicago radio station WHPK. Scroll down to 7/27/2008.)

He’s rubbed shoulders with everyone who was anyone: Al Jarreau (another Milwaukee native), the Jackson 5 (and a young Michael Jackson, of course), Otis Redding, Chubby Checker, Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Bobby Bland, Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Booker T and the M.G.’s, the O’Jays, the Dells, the Dramatics, Tavares, Millie Jackson and Cissy Houston.

This is where Paul Mollan comes in.

Mollan is a New York writer and producer who’s working on a documentary about Harvey. It’s called “Soul Untold: The Life & Times of Harvey Scales.”

He’s just launched a Kickstarter campaign, trying to raise $16,000 to stage a show in Milwaukee later this year — “think ‘The Last Waltz,’ but for Harvey Scales,” Mollan says — for use in the film. They could use some help.

“The only risk involved with this film are the consequences of it not getting funded and made. If that happens we run the risk of losing the memories and stories of a music business survivor. We’ve recently lost two industry giants in Don Davis and Bobby Womack. Our challenge is to not let any more stories pass without being told.”

Mollan hopes to finish the film a year from now, then screen it at festivals.

Harvey doesn’t play a lot of gigs anymore, at least not in Wisconsin. He splits his time between California and Georgia, with only occasional homecomings. This year, Harvey has another Fourth of July gig, at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

When I saw him last Fourth of July, the first of two short but energetic sets featured a raucous 12-minute jam on “The Yolk,” a 1970 single on Chess. Always a ladies’ man, he invited some to dance with him on stage, then closed the show by surrounding himself with five “disco ladies” as he performed the No. 1 hit he wrote for Johnnie Taylor in 1976. The first time I saw Harvey, four summers ago at a small festival in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he stepped down from the stage and closed the show with a snake dance through the audience.

One of the songs played in Oshkosh last year was the first one released by Harvey Scales with the Seven Sounds.

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“Glamour Girl,” Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds, 1964, from Cuca J-1155, a 7-inch single. It’s long out of print, but is available on “Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities, Vol. 3,” a 2008 UK compilation.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under July 2014, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 4

There are exactly 900 songs in the Christmas playlist in at AM, Then FM world headquarters. You’d think I could pick one.

But then I think, if you’ve read all the Christmas posts over the last five years, some of these songs must be getting real familiar.

So here’s something not posted before, some groovy ’60s jazz.

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“We Three Kings Of Orient Are,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964.

On which we get an elegant, traditional intro that lasts a minute. Then Mr. Smith gets to riffing on his Hammond B-3 organ. His big band gleefully plays along. Then we wind it back down for an elegant, traditional outro in the last 50 seconds.

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This cut also is on Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’” LP, also released in 1964. This LP appears to be out of print but is available digitally. The only differences are that the latter has a much cooler cover and two extra tracks: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (with Wes Montgomery on guitar) and “Greensleeves” (with Kenny Burrell on guitar and Grady Tate on drums).

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

Furlough week, Day 1: Hi-yoooo!

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

The wisdom of Jimmy Buffett, from “Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes.” That line from that 1977 song is our mantra for this week.

I work for a mainstream media company that for each of the past four years has had everyone take a week off without pay. It helps control costs, they say. (Such savings also help pay for the lovely $37.5 million parting gift given to the CEO who left the company last year.) After four years, it seems to be part of the business plan, like crack for the bean counters.

This is my furlough week. We’re going to take that lemon and make lemonade. Each day, let’s laugh so we don’t go insane. Just something a little different.

When I was a kid, I bought 45s until I could afford albums. In 1970, I was 13, a teenager, just barely. Yet old enough, I thought, that I should be buying albums. So I bought my first, probably with birthday money.

I remember going through the records at the J.C. Penney store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I couldn’t decide on what kind of music I wanted (or what would be acceptable to my parents’ ears, a consideration I thought wise at the time). So I made the safe choice, settling on this one.

“The Best of Bill Cosby” was released in 1969. Here’s a cut on which Cos almost gets edgy. Listen to this, and you can tell just how Cosby influenced Richard Pryor. All it needs is one “motherfucker,” and it’s Pryor, not Cos.

“The Lone Ranger,” Bill Cosby, 1964, from “The Best of Bill Cosby,” 1969. Recorded live at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago and originally released on “I Started Out As A Child,” 1964.

What I never knew until this week is that this version of “The Lone Ranger” — the one I’ve known for 40 years — is just an excerpt of the original bit. There’s more of it in the video below, but still not the entire thing. My version runs 57 seconds. The video runs 2:26. The original cut from 1964 runs 3:07.

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Filed under March 2012, Sounds

In the beginning

Do you remember when you first became aware of rock music? Maybe you were so young that it was more pop than rock, but you get the idea.

My moment came in early 1964, when the Beatles took America by storm. My introduction came from the girls at Russell Boulevard Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri. It came almost as a taunt.

“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

That got old pretty fast, especially when you are in first grade and you can’t figure out why all the girls are going so gaga over it. Like this.

Yet it wasn’t all that long before I heard something I liked so much that I learned the whole song. It was the summer of 1965. I was 7, maybe 8 by then. I must have heard it on one of the TV variety shows my dad so loved watching.

“I’m Henery the Eighth I am, Henery the Eighth I am, I am.”

You get the idea. A song that’s easy for a kid to learn and sing over and over.

Peter Noone came to town earlier this year, playing an outstanding Herman’s Hermits show. Our tiny casino lounge was jam-packed. The overflow crowd snaked out around the slot machines. A woman standing in front of me fanned herself with a copy of 16 magazine from November 1965. This one.

I hope Noone signed it for her. Autographs aren’t my thing, and there were plenty of the faithful on hand, so I didn’t stay for a meet-and-greet. Besides, my night was made when we got to sing along. I’ve known the words for 45 years.

“I’m Henery the Eighth I am, Henery the Eighth I am, I am.”

Ever since that night, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good Herman’s Hermits record. I found one the other day.

“I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” Herman’s Hermits, from “Herman’s Hermits On Tour,” 1965. This is their second American release. It’s out of print. The song is available on “Herman’s Hermits: Their Greatest Hits,” a 1990 CD release, and digitally.

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Filed under October 2011, Sounds

Jerry’s basement revisited

It was a little surprising to read the comments on last week’s post and to learn that you dig the records we listened to in Jerry’s basement in the mid-’70s. Your affirmation is much appreciated.

We certainly weren’t trend-setters among our peers, and we certainly weren’t all that sophisticated. Jerry reminded me that we also listened to “The Best of the Guess Who, Vol. 2,” which came out in 1973.

That we listened to good records in Jerry’s basement simply reflects what we heard on the radio at the time.

We grew up in the glory days of free-form FM, deep album cuts and adventurous DJs. Even though we lived in a small town in central Wisconsin, we were exposed to many sounds beyond the Top 40 after the sun went down. All that, plus the drinking age was 18, so you heard plenty of new stuff at parties.

I can’t think of any other way we would have heard Montrose or New Riders of the Purple Sage. Having records by Sweet and Led Zeppelin simply meant you liked the singles and perhaps had heard some album cuts. Having records by the Guess Who and Steppenwolf simply meant you liked the singles.

(Richard Pryor had to have been a word-of-mouth recommendation or something heard at a party. None of those cuts could be played on the radio.)

In the early ’70s, we had only one real record store in our town. The guy who ran Bob’s Musical Isle was said to have been a bit of a perv. Regardless, BMI was one of those ’50s-style record shops that hadn’t aged well in the ’70s. So I bought records at Prange’s department store until a laid-back hippie opened another record store, the Inner Sleeve, in 1975.

I would like to say I bought a lot of cool records at Prange’s and then the Sleeve in the mid-’70s. One look at the iTunes suggests otherwise.

Yet in the early ’70s, Aerosmith covered “Train Kept A Rollin’” and “Big Ten Inch Record,” a couple of old ’50s R&B tunes by Tiny Bradshaw. Curious about that kind of music from that time, but wanting to go a different direction from all the “American Graffiti” stuff so popular at the time, I picked up “Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade” and started digging it. Still do.

“Too Much Monkey Business” and “Nadine,” Chuck Berry, 1956 and 1964, respectively. from “Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade,” 1967. My vinyl copy is this 1972 reissue. It’s out of print. Both cuts are available on “The Chess Box: Chuck Berry,” a 3-CD comp released in 1990.

Can’t say whether we ever played this in Jerry’s basement, though. Not sure whether the fellas shared my enthusiasm for Chuck Berry.

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Filed under August 2011, Sounds