Tag Archives: Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds

Over 12 years, a musical education

When this blog debuted 12 years ago this week, I knew plenty about Peter Tork and I knew nothing about Harvey Scales.

Fellow music bloggers hepped me to Harvey Scales, who was an underappreciated Wisconsin treasure. He’s well known to soul enthusiasts and to those who saw him 50 years ago on a Midwest circuit of clubs, college rathskellers, frat houses, roadhouses and beer bars. He died on Feb. 11. He was 77, maybe 78. When I posted word of his death in a couple of local history Facebook groups, the memories poured in from that long-gone scene:

“I remember being at the teen beer bar, Jack’s Point Bar on the Beach Road, Twistin’ Harvey singing and standing on the tabletops while twistin’ a white towel over his head. He was very good and got the place rockin’!” … “Threw me his sweaty shirt!” … “Twistin’ Harv was legendary and always drew a big crowd. They were so much fun!” … “First good R&B band I had ever heard. They really opened my eyes to a complete different style of music.” … “Twistin’ Harvey and the Seven Sounds blew my mind in the late ’60’s at some outdoor event in Appleton.”

I’m too young to have seen Harvey Scales in his prime, but I was fortunate to see latter-day versions of Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds at a small outdoor show in 2010 and then in a steamy tent on the Fourth of July in 2013. Kinda felt like I was seeing one of the last of the soul and R&B revues.

Peter Tork’s passing on Feb. 21 was not unexpected. He also was 77. When Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz announced the most recent Monkees tour, I immediately got the sense that Tork sat it out because he didn’t feel up to touring. Whether that’s so, only those closest to him know.

“I have in general made no secret of the fact that all these recent years of Monkees-related projects, as fun as they’ve been, have taken up a lot of my time and energy,” Tork said a year ago, preferring to work on a blues record instead. “So, I’m shifting gears for now, but I wish the boys well.”

I’ve loved the Monkees since I was a kid in the ’60s. Truth be told, I don’t write about them enough. Wish I still had my Monkees cards and my Monkeemobile model. I still vividly remember the day my Monkeemobile’s roof got smooshed beyond repair. However, we still have all the records.

We were fortunate to see the Monkees in three different settings, in three wonderful shows. We started with Davy Jones solo in 2010, then the Davy-Micky-Peter lineup in 2011, then the Mike-Micky-Peter lineup in 2014. That’s Peter playing the red guitar at right in the latter show. Each time we saw Peter, he was the coolest, most relaxed guy on the stage.

When this blog debuted 12 years ago this week, I knew nothing about Mongo Santamaria, either.

It wasn’t all that long ago that my friend Larry Grogan — the proprietor of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog and the host of WFMU’s “Testify!” — hepped me to him, too. Still exploring, still learning.

The record you see below is one recently found while digging and recently ripped on the turntable that sits just to my right in AM, Then FM world headquarters.

“I Thank You,” Mongo Santamaria, from “All Strung Out,” 1970.

Thanks for reading all these years, everyone, and thanks for hepping me to cool music like this. More to come!

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Filed under February 2019, Sounds

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’d hoped to raise $16,000 to stage a show in Milwaukee — “think ‘The Last Waltz,’ but for Harvey Scales,” Mollan says — for use in the film. However, the Kickstarter campaign didn’t get funded.

“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 in 2015, 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.

harveyscalesglamourgirl45

“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

Rockin’ the park

We used to rock all summer long in the big tent outside our local casino, but they took it down a couple of years ago. Hasn’t been the same since.

We used to rock all summer long at county fairs all around our corner of Wisconsin, but all we get now is one country act after another.

These days, we rock when and where we can find it. This summer, we had to drive a little, but we found it in a couple of small-town parks.

This is one such story.

We rocked with this cat when we saw Milwaukee soul legends Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds. This is “Rockin’ Ricky” Brenneman of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where they have a nice little summer weekend festival called Metro Jam.

Ricky was our blissed-out leader that Friday night, rocking an electric blue shirt under his white suit, nicely complementing his salt-and-pepper mullet and his wild, long, gray soul patch. (The photo is from Saturday night, which I couldn’t attend. Ricky changed shirts.)

Perhaps the only cat better dressed was Harvey Scales himself, in a glittery purple shirt and white pants, then a glittery gold shirt and white pants. The star of the show is a man of the people. He hopped down off the stage for an impassioned “When A Man Loves A Woman,” then led a snake dance during a long jam toward the end of the show.

I appreciate Ricky’s passion. He jumped right into that snake dance.

We heard Scales do a bunch of covers, backed by the Seven Sounds’ guitars and horns as tight as it must have been back in the ’60s, when they were regulars in the clubs and beer bars around Wisconsin.

The set list: “Sweet Soul Music,” a most lascivious “Mustang Sally,” “Try A Little Tenderness,” “Love-Itis,” “The Twist,” “Who’s Makin’ Love,” “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” “Get On The Good Foot,” “When A Man Loves A Woman,” “Soul Man” and, of course, “Disco Lady,” the  Scales tune that became a huge hit for Johnnie Taylor.

Scales finally played one of his own for the encore at Washington Park. A funky new dance, circa 1970. Harvey’s nearing 70, but he still can bring it, even if he can’t slide across the stage on his knees anymore.

“The Yolk,” Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds, Chess 2089 7-inch, 1970. This tune and “The Funky Yolk” are on “Love-Itis: All the Rare & Unreissued 45’s from the Vaults of Magic Touch: 1967-1977,” a hard-to-find compilation CD released last year.

(True confession: I had not heard “The Yolk” before that night. I immediately went looking for it when I got home. So all credit and many thanks are due to DJ Eddy Bauer, who posted the 45 image and the tune on his blog earlier this year.)

Photo: Via Rockin’ Ricky’s Facebook page, but taken by Doug Sundin of the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter

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Filed under August 2010, Sounds