Chuck Jackson

TrackSingle
I Don't Want To CryWand 106
I Wake Up CryingWand 110
What You Gonna' Say TomorrowWand 119
Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)Wand 122
I Keep Forgettin'Wand 126
Gettin' Ready For The HeartbreakWand 128
Tell Him I'm Not HomeWand 132
Any Other WayWand 141
Are You Lonely For MeMotown M-1144
The Day My World Stood StillV.I.P. 25052

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Chuck Jackson playlist

 

Chuck Jackson poster 1

 

Contributor: Dave Stephens

Transience and the tricks that memory can play. Two subjects that aren’t necessarily related but can be. Word number one was the first to hit me when the thought of doing a Toppermost on Chuck Jackson entered my head. A few deserved hits in the early sixties – or so I thought – but a name that’s probably unknown to most pop pickers these days. How wrong was I! A little research showed that, whilst he hit the US Hot 100 on numerous occasions of which seven hit the top fifty with his highest reaching the exalted heights of #23, this was all over there; he didn’t trouble the UK charts at all. Not forgotten then, just never really accepted on this side of that great big pond.

He deserved more. The record that broke the US Top Thirty, Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird) was a classic in anyone’s book. Written by Burt Bacharach with lyricist Bob Hilliard, it had many of the tropes that we associate with the slightly later series of songs that Burt wrote in association with Hal David for Dionne Warwick, not least of which was the combination of pleasing surprises in the melody line together with the maintenance of a natural flow to the song. Almost as a bonus on this record was the usage of the latin baion rhythm which we all thought that Atlantic Records had a patent on.

Note Burt’s fulsome introduction to Chuck in the top clip which is from the Granada TV special entitled The Bacharach Sound and was aired in the UK on 14th April 1965:

“He’s not too well known in this country yet but in the next year I believe you’re gonna hear and see a great deal of Mr Chuck Jackson.”

Unfortunately those words didn’t turn out to be prophetic. The success of Any Day Now – and the bracketed phrase that followed rather quickly disappeared – was never to be repeated or at least, not at that level in spite of a distinguished recording career which included a spell with the mighty Motown.

Charles Jackson was born in Latta, South Carolina on 22nd July 1937. From a very early age he was looked after by his grandparents; he never knew his father and his mother moved north to Pittsburgh for work when Charles was only eighteen months old. His life in those early years largely consisted of work in the cotton fields with Sunday appearances in the church choir from the age of six. Due to the racial segregation then prevalent in the south, young Charles was denied a proper education; while he won a musical scholarship, he wasn’t able to use this to go to college in South Carolina due to the discriminatory legislation then in place in the state. As a result, in 1950 he followed the example set by his mother and moved to Pittsburgh. There he moved in with one of his seven aunts and completed his school education. He also enhanced his musical education considerably both as a listener by sneaking into jazz clubs – illegally due to his age – and seeing performers like Horace Silver and Art Blakey, and as a performer by working with groups like the doo wop outfit, the 5 Mellows, and the delightfully named Ray Raspberry Gospel Singers.

In 1956, after the US Supreme Court made school segregation non-constitutional, Charles made an attempt to return to his state of birth to enrol at the South Carolina State College (SCSC) and major in music in order to use his scholarship. However, due to civil rights battles that took place in the state in this timeframe he decided to return to Pittsburgh.

I’m breaking the flow at this juncture to state that (1) the information in the last two paragraphs has come from the highly informative Pittsburgh Music History article on Chuck and (2) I’m making no attempt to summarise the events that took place at SCSC in 1956, since those good folk who put together the article do a far better job than I ever could and I’d highly recommend that the reader digests their words.

In 1957, Charles joined the Del Vikings who were also Pittsburgh-based and who, earlier in that same year, had had a substantial hit with Come Go With Me, a record that is now (rightly) regarded as a doo wop classic, following this with another big seller in the shape of Whispering Bells. Both these records had been released by the time Charles joined the group. What’s more, the group had also split into two. I’m not going to attempt to document the story of what happened to them at that time, since the events are as convoluted as the name of the group which appears differently depending on which article you read. Instead, I’ll point the reader at the Marv Goldberg feature on the group in his excellent R&B Notebooks series. My excuse, and I think it’s a sound one, is that these events are somewhat peripheral to the Charles/Chuck Jackson story.

Later in ’57, the group containing Charles toured as the “Dell Vikings” although that name got changed to Chuck Jackson And The Versatiles when Kripp Johnson, who was the only original member of the Del Vikings, left to rejoin said group. Prior to his departure, a couple of singles were released under variants of the original group name but more interestingly, as far as this document is concerned, is one that saw the light of day under the name “Kripp Johnson And Chuck Jackson” on Dot. The A-side, a cover of B.B. King’s Woke Up This Morning with Johnson in the lead vocal slot was perfectly OK in its own right, but of much more interest to Chuck Jackson fans was his first appearance on lead on the flip, Willette, a slow doo wop ballad to the tune of Danny Boy. In addition to that tune, the quality of the voice and the restraint of the backing singers make the record stand out from a thousand and one other doo wop ballads. But stick with the clip; there was more to come. Round about the minute mark the song switches to its middle eight which is a signal for the sotto voce tone to be discarded and replaced by something more in the Wilson Pickett cum Levi Stubbs mould, or perhaps Jackie Wilson who would have made a better comparison date-wise. The flood gates open, Chuck (maybe a nickname that stuck?) never quite returns to the calmness of the opening verses and rounds the whole thing off with a falsetto to marvel at.

(If you’re wondering at the usage of the Del(l) Vikings name at the start of the clip, I can report that the record label FeeBee who would have cut the single but passed it to Dot for distribution, didn’t release their version until 1958 with the credit “The Dell Viking Kripp Johnson With Chuck Jackson”. I’d also note that the FeeBee version correctly attributed the melody via a credit to (Frederic) Weatherly which wasn’t the case with the Dot release.)

It would be pleasing to report that the release of Willette started Chuck on the path to stardom but history doesn’t always behave in such an obliging manner. It did sell well locally but that was all. Joe Averback, the founder of FeeBee Records, the label on which the Del Vikings started, was so convinced of the merit of the track that he launched another label, Petite, on which he rereleased Willette a couple of times with different flips. It’s possible that the ubiquity of the track in Pittsburgh might have convinced Clock Records of New York to sign Chuck/Charles when he and the Versatiles split in 1959. He cut several singles for the label of which the first, Come On And Love Me was, at least in the eyes/ears of this reviewer, probably the best, bearing something of a resemblance in terms of ferocity to the later Wilson Pickett/Falcons track, I Found A Love, though I wouldn’t wish to fool the reader: Come On And Love Me still falls short of the majesty of I Found A Love.

During the relatively brief period when Chuck/Charles was a member of the Del(l) Vikings, the group opened for Jackie Wilson at the Harlem Apollo, and the Pittsburgh Music History article on our man records the fact that Wilson visited Jackson’s dressing room afterwards and offered to help him if/when he pursued a solo career. Further to that meeting, Jackson took up the offer and from 1960 onwards worked in both the Jackie Wilson Revue at the Apollo plus its touring counterpart. Later that year, Luther Dixon, then working as A&R Man for Scepter Records, with or without Florence Greenberg, founder and owner of the label – accounts vary slightly – caught Chuck’s act at the Apollo, was or were duly impressed and persuaded him to come on board. He joined Wand Records, a subsidiary of Scepter which had been set up a year or so earlier.

Chuck’s opening shot on Wand, I Don’t Want To Cry, would have caused a few heads to turn. A bouncy but still dramatic ballad written by the man himself plus producer Luther Dixon, it was blessed with full orchestral arrangement from a youthful Carole King – some copies of the single actually had “Arranged by Carole King” on the label – including a striking middle eight where Mickey Baker’s staccato guitar work is strongly prominent. But possibly the most pleasing aspect of the accompaniment was the usage of massed cellos to provide riffing responses to the repeats of the title line from Chuck, variations on which would keep other arrangers in business in the years to come.

A comment about the Jackson voice would be timely; I’ve only made a solitary reference to it so far. In terms of the big-name soul singers he wasn’t as distinctive as Ben E. King, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Ray Charles who had already broken through to the public (and largely white) domain, or James Brown and Solomon Burke who were on the verge of breaking through. That’s all a tad negative. On the positive side, I’m not sure that any of those singers would have made a better job of that song although some were of the type where the phrase “he/she could sing the phone book and make it sound good” is applicable. The Jackson vocal, as displayed on this track and many other early Wand sides, was light in tone but often with a hint of greater intensity held back which could sometimes emerge in the middle eight or via a brief falsetto. Later sides would give him greater scope to demonstrate the capabilities of that voice.

I Don’t Want To Cry made #36 in the Hot100 and #5 in the R&B Chart. It was a start.

He stayed with Wand until the end of 1967 when he moved to Motown – we are told, after pleas to do so from Smokey Robinson. He stayed there for three years after which it was ABC, All Platinum, etc, etc, with the flow of hits having dried up.

To my mind Chuck made four records at Wand that I would categorise as classics; two we’ve already come across – Any Day Now and I Don’t Want To Cry – with the quartet completed by I Wake Up Crying and I Keep Forgettin’. Three of those, that’s with I Don’t Want To Cry excluded, I’d further categorise as uptown soul, a convenient piece of labelling to wrap around numbers that mainly originated in New York and usually were ‘softer’ or had less gospel or blues content than output that came from places like Memphis. They also tended towards greater complexity in both melodies and arrangements. The fact that Burt Bacharach had his name against two of the four is certainly not coincidental.

I Wake Up Crying was Chuck’s third Wand outing. His second record, It Never Happens (In Real Life) had retained the ‘misery lyrics but upbeat arrangement’ approach of his debut but was rewarded with a lower chart position, so maybe Luther Dixon had decided to go with all out misery this time. Hal David’s lyrics – yes, this is the other Bacharach song – weren’t overly sophisticated but they were to the point:

I wake up crying
After tossin’ and turnin’
And a-yearnin’ the whole night long
Pretty baby since you went away
I haven’t spent a happy day

Those lyrics were supported by a tempo that was almost funereal, although it was relieved slightly by an arrangement which had latin touches which might have indicated Burt being the man responsible (but didn’t this time). Prominent drums which might have been tympani provided a predictable but still effective throbbing heartbeat metaphor.

In terms of commercial success, it didn’t have the appeal of either of its predecessors, stalling before it entered the Top 50. That result might have put Wand off from going with Burt, with or without Hal, again but no, B&D were the credited writers on the follow-up Jackson single, The Breaking Point for which Burt did get to do the arrangement. It’s an odd track; initial impressions are that it’s taken a little too fast, that the occasional vocal leaps are very un-Bacharach like and that Chuck’s singing lacked its usual precision. All of which might well have been deliberate. It could be that Burt felt that lyrics like “This pain is so bad / It’s driving me mad!” called for something more than the Mr. Cool approach. Which might be speculation but what is undeniable – or it is for me – is that the track grows on you after an initial recoil. It didn’t grow on the buyers though who refrained from putting their hands in their pockets.

Once again Wand stuck with Bacharach and their faith was rewarded two records down the line when Burt, this time with Bob Hilliard as wordsmith, provided the vehicle that gave Chuck what would turn out to be his most successful record, and that, as we’ve already learned was Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird). Let’s give Bob some of the credit here. He’d come up with a theme that wasn’t too common in the pop world. In most gloomy sagas, she’s left or is about to. In Any Day Now, she hasn’t gone and there are no tell-tale signs that this is going to happen but the narrator has convinced himself, lack of evidence notwithstanding, that this is going to happen. Add in to this a melody that was up there with Burt’s best, a superb arrangement (from highly respected Bert Keyes) plus an oh-so-precise Jackson vocal which all combined to conjure up a mood that was not unlike that present in some of the later Dionne Warwick B&D singles and was it a surprise that the public liked it? The only surprise is that it didn’t sell more. There is actually one more surprise, or at least question, and that is: why didn’t Wand put Chuck and Burt together again? The answer, I guess, has to be that – after Bacharach and David hooked up again and started creating hit after hit for one-time backing singer (and yes, to Chuck) Dionne Warwick little more than six months later on the parent Scepter label – Greenberg and Dixon were loath to disrupt a winning formula.

The instrumental responses to Jackson’s vocal phrasing that we noted on I Don’t Want To Cry were to reappear with a vengeance on I Keep Forgettin’, only on this one it was mainly via drums though not without anchoring provided, via single note punctuation, from other instruments. The composers for this song were another pair of highly respected writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (plus a mysterious “Garfield”). And although the credits also read “Produced by Leiber Stoller” and “Arranged by Teacho Wiltshire”, there is a telling Comment in 45cat from a “PStoller” which reads:

“The credits for I Keep Forgettin’ are incorrect due to a clerical error at L&S’ office. The song was written by Leiber & Stoller, but not with Gil Garfield; and the arrangement is by Mike Stoller, not the great Teacho Wiltshire.”

I keep forgetting
You don’t love me no more
I keep forgetting
You don’t want me no more

Before leaving I Keep Forgettin’, I’d just comment that the song is one of the better ones penned by the highly prolific duo. That may not have been reflected in airplay for the track but it has spawned a range of highly differing versions over the years, from artists as varied as Procol Harum, Roger Chapman, David Bowie and Christine Collister.

My first four Jackson tracks selected themselves, in part because of sales though they’re not his top four, or anything quite that simplistic, but more because those are the ones I go back to with much higher frequency than others. My ‘second four’ from the label all have merit but in general they are not as well realised although that “in general” suggests correctly that this is a simplification too.

What You Gonna’ Say Tomorrow (or Whatcha’ Gonna’ Say Tomorrow as some labels have it) was the single released immediately before Any Day Now and it was blessed with a splendid arrangement which was provided by Teacho Wiltshire (and that’s not in dispute here). This is the track. Play it now and turn up the volume slightly to hear the galloping strings. My only beef with the overall production, is that the orchestral backing could have been mixed up a bit which would help to give the impression that Chuck and the backing ladies, who were providing the response aspect of gospel call & response, were fighting against the backing and add to the urgency of his vocal. Just a thought.

The follow-up to I Keep Forgettin’, Getting Ready For The Heartbreak, superficially sounded like another one in the line of uptown soul ballads but a closer listen reveals differences. Chuck has evidently been told not to hold back and to push up the emotion content a notch or two, and at the same time the backing has been toned back; gone are the strings to be replaced by an outfit that could easily fit in the average small studio. Both organ and piano are present which makes me wonder if Chuck and/or producer Dixon (and arranger this time) had been listening to what was going on down in Memphis where Satellite had blossomed into Stax ushering in a minimalist approach to R&B and soul music.

Several records later, that suspicion of ears having been opened to Memphis soul was confirmed by the release of Any Other Way, a belated cover of William Bell’s second single released on Stax a year or so earlier. This is the Bell original and you’ll immediately note that the track is more of a dancer than ballad, with a two chord vamp replacing anything more complex in terms of melody line, and horns used to build interest but deployed judiciously. The Jackson version socks you with the horns immediately and deploys the backing ladies to more rhythmic effect. And the vocal hits you so hard that you almost wonder – where’s this guy been hiding? And I know I’ve been going on a bit about arrangements but the man responsible this time was a friend of Luther’s named Horace Ott – info courtesy of Wiki – a name I’d not come across before but who, over time, worked with a load of interesting people including Nina Simone, Jackie Wilson, Don Covay, Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke and more. The net result was something that sounded more Stax than the original.

From earlier in ’63 came Tell Him I’m Not Home, and you could probably work out the lyrics from that title but they bear repetition nevertheless …

Every time I call you on the phone
They tell me that you’re not at home
But last night when I called you
Before I said hello
I could hear you
(Hear you)
Saying in the background
(Saying in the background)
Oh, yeah
(Tell him I’m not home)
You’re never home

… with the bracketed lines sung by the backing ladies but that final “Tell him I’m not home” coming most emphatically from a solo Doris Troy, while Chuck, from a calm start, gets ever more frantic as each lengthy verse progresses reaching the full sandpaper version in the middle eight. Once again, the arranger Steven Garrick who’s also co-composer of the number is new to me, but he delivers the goods with a mix that sounds more like Bert Berns era Solomon Burke than Jackson himself in his earlier Wand days. But I guess if you wanted to hear how Chuck might have sounded at Atlantic, this could give you a pretty good idea.

Several tracks were also begging for inclusion in the ten but got culled from the eventual list. Two in particular demonstrate our man’s versatility. My first is the outright dancer Beg Me from 1964 on which the backing team might have again included Doris Troy: Commentator ‘jukebox george’ on 45cat claims she is present in the backing chorale. My second is the first of a series of duets Chuck made with Maxine Brown. The song is the Chris Kenner authored Something You Got. This is the Kenner version (and for more on Chris see his Toppermost). The Chuck/Maxine recording must be the slowest of the many versions of this excellent number. It’s also the raunchiest and the only reason the track didn’t make the ten is that the duo never really manage to top the level of innuendo that they get up to in the first verse.

By the mid-sixties, Chuck’s chart appearances were starting to get less frequent and moving from low-end Top 50 to low-end Hot 100. Smokey Robinson persuaded him to talk to Motown and Berry Gordy made good on the deal by buying out his contract with Scepter/Wand. He cut three LP’s – albums of course were now in although Wand hadn’t stinted on LP releases either – and six singles for the label with the later discs appearing on its V.I.P. subsidiary. Unfortunately, none of these releases managed to re-establish Chuck as a regular occupier of the higher end positions in the record charts. Only two of those singles appeared in the UK which might have indicated lack of confidence in Chuck’s output by Motown.

There should be a big “in spite of the records’ quality” applying to the last couple of sentences. Any reader interested in Chuck’s music and/or Motown is strongly recommended to dip into a 2005 2xCD release entitled Chuck Jackson – The Motown Anthology. Quite why a considerable amount of the contents isn’t already in the popular listening domain, I just don’t know; it really is that good. And, if it hadn’t been for the fact that Chuck is so associated with his Wand days rather than anything that came later, I might have been inclined to up the portion of Motown material in my Ten.

Of the tracks that did make the Ten, Are You Lonely For Me (which sometimes appears with a ‘Baby’ at the end, as it is sung) is arguably the least Motown sounding of all the tracks that make up The Motown Anthology and the reason for that is quite simple: it’s a Bert Berns song (though as far as I know he had nothing to do with the production or arrangement) which originated via an excellent version from relatively little-known soul man Freddie Scott in 1966. The Scott track topped the R&B Chart and crossed over to #39 in the Hot 100. The song has enjoyed increasing popularity with artists over the years with versions from Otis Redding with Carla Thomas in ’67, and after Chuck’s interpretation, Hank Ballard, Al Green, Gregg Allman, Steve Marriott and plenty more. The Motownisation of the number is initially apparent in the slight break in the backing ladies opening singing of the title line, as in, “Are you lonely (gap) for me baby” and it’s that syncopation that sticks with you throughout the record. Vocally, Chuck is a good match for Freddie and to these ears it’s an honourable draw depending on my mood; one day it’s Freddie, another it’s Chuck. Take a listen:

But for my second Jackson Motown selection I wanted one which could have come from nowhere but Detroit. While there were plenty of candidates – a casual sampling of The Motown Anthology will confirm that – I chose The Day My World Stood Still, a flip from November 1969. Smokey’s presence as both co-writer and co-producer might have had something to do with the choice, but it was the fact that the Motown tropes were all there but delivered in such a manner that they were totally irresistible that did it. But it’s also the way all the little things add up: the repeated “that” in the section “The day that I recall was the start of it all / An ordinary Tuesday, such a bad news day / And that’s the day my world stood still / That’s the day my world stood still”, the phrase “such a bad news day” is emphasised by the backing ladies coming in behind Chuck, and the manner in which the title line is repeated after what seems like a pause but isn’t. And then that switch to a lower key not all that many seconds later with latin percussive instruments accentuating the switch. I could go on but I’m missing the main point -the way that Chuck fits in oh so well with his new environment; note in particular on this song, the brief touches of a capella and the commanding “listen’s”. He deserved much much more from his Motown stint. One can only guess that Berry Gordy and his team’s attention was spread too widely at the time.

The last Chuck Jackson Motown track that I’d like the reader to bend an ear to is his interpretation of B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone which appeared on the third Motown/V.I.P. album, Teardrops Keep Fallin’ On My Heart. I’m often wary about covers or versions of tracks which are (a) well known and (b) very distinctive/unusual, both of which attributes are applicable here. Indeed, it’s the only ‘later period’ King track which I feel compares with the quality of his early RPM/Kent/Modern records.

Before comparing the King and Jackson tracks I’d like to drop back to 1951 and the record which inspired the B.B. version: The Thrill Is Gone, performed and co-written by Roy Hawkins (see footnotes). Although Hawkins was a relatively quiet singer, like several other blues singer/pianists at that time, on this record his tone is less miserable and downbeat than B.B.’s and the sax break (from all-round R&B hero Maxwell Davis on whom more can be found in the Toppermost on Percy Mayfield) could be described as raucous. Note also, there’s a stop time section in the original which doesn’t appear in the King version and most of the later ones, possibly all, though I can’t claim to have checked them. These are the ‘missing’ lyrics for that section. They convey a clear message: the relationship is over and the protagonist is happy to move on.

The first time I met you, baby
You weave your magic well
But now I can forget you
‘Cause I’m free, free from your spell

Moving forward to the King version, and here it is as a reminder. The excision of the section above, and the somewhat ambiguous nature of the rest of the lyrics, allow the Blues Boy to proffer the line that he’s absolutely gutted that she’s done him wrong and his tone is one of regret and resignation, all supported by a string arrangement which is both alien to the normal King mode of output and intended to support the gloomy mood. Whether this was due to misinterpretation of the original or a deliberate change, who knows, and I guess we’ll never find out. Below is the Jackson version:

While he’s not triumphal, he isn’t exactly resigned either; he certainly doesn’t ease back on the ‘big voice’. Meanwhile, the backing is more akin to a 1970 version of B.B.’s Modern period, that’s to say a guitar up front which rings like Blues Boy’s Lucille but doesn’t echo the flurries on his “Thrill”. The doomy strings have disappeared with brass appearing instead, echoing Modern. Tongue in cheek? Maybe but it all makes for an enjoyable track.

Chuck left Motown in 1971. There were to be several more labels and several more records but nothing seriously hit the charts apart from I Only Get This Feeling on ABC which achieved a #35 in the R&B Chart in 1973 and the hot & steamy I’m Needing You, Wanting You on Platinum which got to #30 also in the R&B Chart in 1975. Although further hits weren’t forthcoming, he continued to be a popular stage attraction; those early days studying Jackie Wilson had stood him in good stead. He’s still with us and I very much hope he’s in good health.

In his review of Any Day Now in “The Heart Of Rock And Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made”, Dave Marsh wrote the following words:

“Chuck Jackson remains one of the most underrated soul singers, probably because his heyday came at none of the big R&B labels (Atlantic, Stax, Motown). In fact, Jackson did most of his best work from 1962 to 1965, the precise period that rock historians most often ignore (when they aren’t denying its very creative existence).”

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Anyone looking up Chuck Jackson on Wikipedia for the first time should be aware that there are two musicians with this name. The other one “is the Canadian musician, lead singer and one of two harmonica players in the Downchild Blues Band”. Our Chuck gets the description “American R&B singer who was one of the first artists to record material by Burt Bacharach and Hal David”. To confuse things even more there are other Charles/Chuck Jacksons: see the Wiki list.

2. The Chuck Jackson discography both in its 45cat incarnation and the one produced by Soulful Kinda Music is littered with records from a variety of labels during that lengthy spell when he was in contract to Wand. One of these was Atco Records, the subsidiary of Atlantic, for whom Chuck would appear to have cut a version of Johnny Ace’s Never Let Me Go (and a fine one too, utilising his ‘soft’ approach). There’s discussion on the subject of what appears to be extra-curricular activity by Jackson during this timeframe by the 45cat commentators in the section on this disc, with the conclusion that this material came from both the Clock and the FeeBee spells and was released in order to capitalise on Chuck’s fame when at Wand.

3. The name Florence Greenberg should stand out in American pop music history because she was that rare thing, a successful female record label owner; her story as documented by Wiki is well worth a visit. In 1958 at the age of 45 she started a record company, Tiara Records. Her only experience of the music business prior to that had been an entrée into what went on at places like the Brill Building via Freddy Bienstock, a friend of her husband who worked in music publishing. She got lucky. Circa 1957, her daughter told her about a group of school friends who named themselves the Poquellos, time passed but the girls and Mrs. Greenberg eventually met and Florence signed them up to her new label with a name change to the Shirelles. Their debut disc, I Met Him On A Sunday, became that label’s first release. The record was licenced to Decca for national distribution and it hit #49 in the Hot 100. Decca were so impressed they decided to buy Tiara including the Shirelles. However, further success for the girls didn’t immediately transpire and Decca returned the label to Florence before not much more than a year had passed, with the latter making a profit in the process. The Shirelles found a new home at the label Florence had set up to replace Tiara, Scepter Records, and went on to sell millions. Ms Greenberg also had success with other artists including Dionne Warwick, the Kingsmen (with Louie Louie), the Isley Brothers (Twist And Shout) and, of course, Chuck Jackson. And in reference to my opening statement to this para I should note that a musical called Baby It’s You was made out of the Greenberg/Tiara/Scepter story and ran from April to September 2011 but had mixed reviews.

The account above, with minimal variation, is the one that appears in the vast majority of the stories on Greenberg/Tiara/Scepter/The Shirelles etc on the net (and by “vast majority”, I mean all bar one which I’ll come to). However, to my eyes, one thing didn’t seem to fit neatly into this story: 45cat shows Tiara as a label that was active from 1955 onwards, had released 13 records prior to I Met Him On Sunday and the design of that single followed the same format as the bulk of its predecessors, suggesting continuity. Eventually, I found what might be the answer in another 45cat set of Comments relating to another, possibly fake, version of I Met Him On Sunday. The entire set of comments are worth reading, but I should alert you to the fact that they’re in reverse order. Two telling comments are:

“I wonder if what happened was that Florence did take The Shirelles under her wing and talked with a local company about making a recording with the girls … maybe paid for the session herself. Then when the disc began selling, Tiara would have egg on their faces probably not fully owning the master.”

and

“My records reflect that Florence bought into a share of the company in April 1957. Other owners with a share at the time appeared to be Hy Grill and Lew Conetta.”

Assuming that last comment is correct then it does suggest (if not fully confirm) that Florence was one of the owners of Tiara when the Shirelles I Met Him On Sunday was released but (1) she didn’t start the company, and (2) that record wasn’t Tiara’s first release (and that’s ignoring any whys and whats relating to the fake version of the single).

4. I made a comment in the main text, to wit “what if any of the big-name soul singers I mentioned recorded I Don’t Want To Cry?”. None did. in fact, but a few artists who don’t quite sit in that rarified category did produce versions. The results break down into two groupings: those which stuck pretty rigidly to the original arrangement, of which I find the Big Maybelle take (on Scepter of all labels) the most satisfying since her gospel tones do add something, and the ones that largely ignored the original styling and targeted a different approach. I find the second grouping much more interesting and would recommend the discs from Barbara Lewis, Anna King (both soulful versions), Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford (almost a throwaway fast version but still works) and Jay and the Americans.

5. I quoted Dave Marsh in the main text. A specific remark he made regarding Any Day Now is also of interest:

“In addition to a beautiful melody, the song opens with an organ riff (repeated in the bridge) that would figure prominently over the next few years in the development of folk-rock, serving as a motif in Blonde On Blonde and elsewhere. The fact that such a crucial link between era and styles has been lying round unremarked for twenty-five years suggests the hidden treasures awaiting a reevaluation of the early sixties pop scene.”

6. If there’s anyone wondering whether there’s ever been a female version of Chuck’s Tell Him I’m Not Home (as in Tell Her I’m Not Home), the answer is yes, it was cut by Ike and Tina Turner in 1965. This is the version with Ike (or more likely, someone standing in for him) uttering the title line. It’s good too but I’d warn the unwary listener that Tina doesn’t really do the ‘calm’ thing. The song also became popular in the Caribbean and there are several versions available on YT, all displaying significantly differing interpretations. The Trinidad Troubadours featuring Tony Ricardo cut one of them.

7. According to Wiki in their write-up on the song Are You Lonely For Me:

“The song was a standard in the Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders tours from 1972 to 1974. Keith Richards named it the one song he would want to be credited for writing.”

8. Roy Hawkins was a blues singer, pianist and songwriter who was born in Jefferson, Texas in 1903 but moved to Oakland, California in the mid forties where he found an audience for his music in the clubs and bars. After cutting records for some tiny independent labels, he signed with Jules Bihari’s Modern Records of Los Angeles in 1949. The most well-known of the records he cut for the label were Why Do Things Happen To Me (1950) and the self-penned, The Thrill Is Gone (1951). Both songs attracted versions from other artists, the former from B.B. King and James Brown and a few more. In the case of The Thrill Is Gone, however, although there were a lot of covers including ones from artists as varied as Roberta Flack, Jerry Garcia and Willie Nelson, it’s probably true to say that the bulk of these were effectively ‘covers’ of the 1969 King version of the song.

Stylistically, Hawkins was not unlike another piano playing Texan émigré to the West Coast, Charles Brown, but with less sanding having been applied to any rough edges.

9. In 1962, Chuck recorded the first version of I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, the Bacharach & David song that was later made famous by Dusty Springfield. However, the Jackson track was shelved until 1984 when it appeared in a CJ compilation entitled Mr. Emotion which was released on the Kent label. Dropping back to 1962 in our time machine and we find the Greenberg/Dixon axis deciding that they’ll redo the song with Tommy Hunt, another Scepter group artist, cutting it instead of Chuck. Which was done and the record was released. Jump forward a couple of years or so and Dusty Springfield in the UK belatedly covered the same song as her third single. The rest, of course, is history. And for those curious, this is the Jackson take:

The information above came from Wiki. They also state: “According to the sleeve notes of that album, Tommy Hunt’s vocals were substituted for Jackson’s whilst the original backing track was retained”, and I’ve compared them, they do sound remarkably similar.

10. I thought I was on fairly safe ground when I stated that Chuck was the first artist to cut I Wake Up Crying since the Wiki writer who contributed the “List Of Songs Written By Burt Bacharach” named Chuck as Original Artist. However, as we all know, Wikipedia isn’t always right, all of the time. Del Shannon included the song on his album Runaway With Del Shannon which was released in June 1961 acc. to both Wiki and AllMusic. The Jackson single was released in August 1961 acc. to 45cat. and they are usually pretty accurate. For the curious, this is the Del Shannon interpretation of I Wake Up Crying.

11. I’ve got into something of a habit of ending footnotes with one or more live clips of the artist and I’m happy to do the same for Chuck. Below you’ll find an undated (but likely to be broadly contemporaneous with the single release) video of I Don’t Want To Cry plus a video of Chuck with his erstwhile backing singer, Dionne Warwick, performing their single If I Let Myself Go which was released in 1997.

 

 

 

Chuck Jackson poster 2

 

Chuck Jackson official website

Chuck Jackson discography at 45cat

Rhythm & Blues Foundation: Pioneer Award 1992

Pittsburgh Music History: Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson biography (AllMusic)

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

Read the Toppermosts of some of the other artists mentioned in this post:
Art Blakey, James Brown, Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Don Covay, Falcons, Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford, Al Green, Chris Kenner, B.B. King, Percy Mayfield, Mickey & Sylvia, Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Ike & Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Jackie Wilson

TopperPost #988

3 Comments

  1. Cal Taylor
    Oct 5, 2021

    That’s a great Toppermost on a great artist. Very comprehensive. Really good work, Dave.
    Although Chuck made some outstanding records after 1963, to my mind, his real purple patch was the two years up to then. We were lucky here in the UK that in that period he had five records released (two on Top Rank and three on Stateside). A fantastic record from that period too that was not released here at the time was the wonderful ‘I Wake Up Crying’. However, ‘Any Day Now’ is definitely my overall favourite. I never tire of it – even now, almost 60 years on.
    I did find it fascinating to read that Chuck made the original recording if ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’. Tommy Hunt’s version that Dusty would have heard is top class. I was surprised, too, to read that Del Shannon originally recorded ‘I Wake Up Crying’. Good research, Dave.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Oct 6, 2021

    Superb Toppermost. Knew ‘Any Day Now’ from the Elvis version but hadn’t known that Chuck had recorded it or that Burt had written it. Such a versatile voice too.

  3. Dave Stephens
    Oct 6, 2021

    Gentlemen, thanks for your kind words. Cal, the snippets of information on the original version of I Wake Up Crying (from Del Shannon) and Chuck’s recording of I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself were things I picked up in checking when the rest of the essay was virtually complete; I wasn’t aware of either of these facts before I started the research. However I felt there would be interest and you’ve proved me right. Andrew, rightly or wrongly I’ve always seen Chuck as Burt’s first “model” for his songs (in reality possibly because Greenberg & Dixon often gave Burt preference in song choices) until he found a more suitable clothes horse in the shape of Ms Warwick, which opinion, I suspect is total rubbish.

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