Roscoe Shelton Biography Artist Biography by Joe ViglioneRoscoe Shelton is a pivotal and influential voice who paved the way for other soul artists as the blues and rock genres were finding some common ground in the world of pop music. His latter-day producer, Fred James, noted that Roscoe was one of the few blues/R&B singers of the ’50s to make the transition to soul.
Eighteen years after his birth on August 22, 1931, in Lynchburg, TN, Roscoe joined the legendary Fairfield Four, a gospel quartet from the ’30s and ’40s. It is important to note here that Shelton’s friend Bobby Hebb also played guitar in the Fairfield Four, though not while Shelton was with the act. After singing lead for that group Roscoe spent four years in the military. Upon his release from military duty he joined a spinoff of the Fairfield Four, which became known as the Skylarks. Between 1956 and 1957 the Skylarks recorded for Nashboro Records, a gospel label owned by Excello Records proprietor Ernie Young. After his gig with the Skylarks, Shelton performed live with his childhood friends DeFord Bailey, Jr. and Bobby Hebb. Hebb noted that Shelton sang spirituals before he went into the blues.
It was never a problem for the singer and guitarist to get together. They would see each other in the neighborhood quite often. And it was the same with DeFord Bailey, Jr., son of the legend he was named after, who lived only two or three houses away from the Hebbs when Bobby and DeFord were children. Bobby Hebb was a sideman with DeFord Bailey, Jr. — considered the first electric bass player in Tennessee — and they had a variety of singers including Roscoe Shelton. Roland Grisham would perform on guitar when Hebb had other commitments. They traveled regionally — a variety of places including Clarksville, Fedville, and Tullahoma, TN, where Hebb’s father was from.
Roscoe Shelton SingsAccording to writer Bill Dahl in the CD liner notes to Roscoe Shelton Sings, Roscoe recorded at Excello Records between October of 1958 to February 1961, the material showing up on his album debut, 1961’s Roscoe Shelton Sings. Bobby Hebb played guitar on some of the original Excello sides, including a minor hit, “Something’s Wrong,” written by Shelton/Hall. Roscoe would cover only one composition from his friend and neighbor, the song-a-day man Bobby Hebb. That tune from circa 1959/1960 is entitled “My Best Friend,” with lyrics slightly altered from Hebb’s original. Forty-fives were being released on various labels after the debut album, Roscoe recording for Ted Jarrett’s Valdot label in 1962, those sides getting licensed to Battle Records. In 1964-1965 the work was issued on the Simms imprint, resulting in the hit “Strain on My Heart.” Simms was absorbed by Sound Stage Seven, a label operated by former DJ John Richbourg, aka John R of Rich Records fame. Sound Stage Seven released the singer’s music between 1965 and 1967, hitting with “Easy Going Fellow.” The SS7 material featured songwriting and production from Allen Orange, delivering the aforementioned hit “Strain on My Heart,” which went into the Top 25 on the R&B charts of Billboard magazine, followed by another hit, “Easy Going Fellow.” “Sea Cruise” author Huey “Piano” Smith contributed a couple of tunes as well, recordings that were issued along with over a half-dozen singles at one point in time, collected on the 1966 album Soul in His Music, Music in His Soul. And consider that was a five-year delay between long-players for the gifted singer — too long a span of time for someone who contributed so much to the changing times. Ten years older than Otis Redding and the fellow born six months before Otis, Wilson Pickett, there’s no doubt that Shelton’s pioneering work impacted the styles of both legends. Redding and Shelton eventually performed at the Apollo Theater on the same bill. Just listen to the Wilson Pickett growls and the Otis Redding inflections to see where they got some of their classic vocal moves.Though music was made for Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree imprint between 1958 and 1969 along with one 45 for Jarrett’s T-Jaye label in the ’70s and another in the ’80s, Shelton left the music business for the private sector in 1970, becoming the dorm administrator for Meharry Medical College in Nashville. The gap is huge between the work on Sound Stage 7 in 1966 and the 1994 release of material by Shelton, Earl Gaines, and Clifford Curry under the title of the Excello Legends. This was actually recorded for what was to be a reactivated Excello Records, but the company sold out to AVI, the disc getting licensed to Magnum and finding re-release in 1998 on Ripete.
Let It ShineFred James produced many of Shelton’s recordings in the ’90s and the new millennium, touring the U.S. and Europe with the singer several times. Those records include Let It Shine and She’s the One from 1996, and the Earl Gaines and Roscoe Shelton 1998 recordings entitled Let’s Work Together. A 1996 duet with Mary-Ann Brandon (wife of producer Fred James) found release on Road Records’ Matches from Motel Rendezvous album in 2003. Several more CDs were released up to the singer’s passing in July of 2002. In 2004 the Grammy-winning Night Train to Nashville collection included “Say You Really Care” from Rosco Shelton Sings, bringing this singer’s work additional appreciation and a new audience. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/roscoe-shelton-mn0000342226/biography
Roscoe Shelton Sings
Roscoe Shelton Sings! AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-]In 1995, AVI/Atomic Beat expanded Roscoe Shelton Sings to 25 tracks, reissuing the music on the logo where it was originally found, the majestic Excello Records imprint. Bill Dahl does an excellent job in his five pages of liner notes, chronicling the material Shelton recorded for Excello during the three-year period from the first session, October 3, 1958, up to the last Excello date Shelton taped for the label on February 2, 1961. In those 28 months something very special was captured, and the reissue wisely keeps the tracking in its original order before adding the bonus tracks. Dahl mentions that Shelton was “reasonably sure” that “Sunny” author Bobby Hebb performed on the first sessions. The musicians were neighbors and it is indeed the lead guitarist who appeared on the Dave “Baby” Cortez Top Ten hit “Rinky Dink” in 1962 who plays on the exquisite “Something’s Wrong,” a minor hit for Shelton. With regard to “Crazy Over You,” “Why Didn’t You Tell Me,” and other tracks, Hebb said, “It sounds like something I might have done at that time. I was playing that particular style — within four frets’ reach.” Shelton’s grasp of mood and nuance is tremendous, the band setting the table perfectly on “Think It Over,” giving Roscoe a perpetual groove to ride. He provides different shades of pain on “A Fool Wrapped Up in Love,” the song titles posing questions or making statements on the various romantic states the singer explores with his dynamic and underexposed voice. The packaging is tremendous, complementing these sounds from the succinct but important initial phase of Shelton’s equally small but vital catalog. You can feel bits of Nat King Cole as well as Sam Cooke on “Are You Sure” and Jackie Wilson’s dancehall verve on “Lonely Heartaches,” but these are merely flavors as Roscoe Shelton delivers his own unique impressions on these early and essential sides. https://www.allmusic.com/album/roscoe-shelton-sings-mw0000005553
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-]
In 1987, Capitol re-released this ten-song disc on CD with five additional tracks, including Helen Reddy’s last three hit singles; this vinyl set contains the ten biggest tunes that built the singer’s legend. Just as George Martin remixed the songs by the group America that he did not originally produce for their “best of,” some of these productions feel like different mixes rather than the sound radio listeners were familiar with. It’s the same voice, and the same musicians; however, “I Am Woman” has more pronounced horns, bigger drums, and Reddy’s voice is clearer than on the original album. It certainly sounds like a superior mix, not what radio listeners were used to, unless the mastering job on this Greatest Hits release contains more defined mastering than the 45 rpm. There’s a special thanks to producer Joe Wissert, so it is very likely he expanded the sound of the Jay Senter recording from her second album; Larry Marks’ work from her debut, I Don’t Know How to Love Him; and possibly some of the Tom Catalano productions as well. Hearing these ten powerful hits together is a strong argument against Reddy’s detractors — she climbed the charts with about as many songs as her friend Petula Clark, and both were embraced by adult contemporary radio. Leon Russell’s “Bluebird” is absent, but the sublime Harriet Schock composition “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” is here, the last of her singles from this era to go Top Ten, and second to last adult contemporary number one. It’s a brilliant tune, and striking performance. Francesco Scavullo did the photography, as he did for so many stars, from Janis Joplin to Barbara Streisand and Diana Ross. “You and Me Against the World” is moving and soulful, taking a Paul Williams composition and showing some of the heart Reddy would bring to her Center Stage disc many years later. The original vinyl ten-song version of Helen Reddy’s Greatest Hits is a concise package culled from six of her first seven albums. https://www.allmusic.com/album/helen-reddys-greatest-hits-mw0000453464
THANKS ERIC GRIGS FOR APPRECIATING MY WRITINGS: “Sure, I understand it’s a schmaltzy product, but it fits in beautifully alongside the earnest, breezy early 80s soft pop that was dominating radio at the time, so you have to greet it with that type of listening ear. Collaborator Joe Wissert provides lush production on it, pushing Australian-American Reddy to branch out in unexpected ways. Particularly, the title track: a floating synth dream that Joe Viglione of AllMusic remarked “might as well be the Go-Gos or Missing Persons; it’s a really great new wave pop tune, served up on a vinyl 12” with and extended dance remix for good measure.” We are talking about Helen Reddy, right? The same Reddy that People magazine disparagingly called the “1970s Queen of Housewife Rock?” Yes. If I had one critique of the song, the chorus needs a better hook—but the verses are mesmerizing. The music captures an etherial, dreamy quality that’s hard to get right. Suddenly, steel drums are dropped in that shouldn’t work at all, but somehow they fit brilliantly with the soft pulsating vibrations of the synthesized beats.
KITTY WELLS REVIEW
COUNTRY HIT PARADEArtist: Kitty WellsAllMusic Review by Joe Viglione [-]https://www.allmusic.com/album/country-hit-parade-mw0000872637
Kitty Wells was a major influence on Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and so many other women who crossed over from country to pop. “Too many times married men think they are single” is the sentiment displayed in “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” — which is 1950s male bashing, and Wells’ perfect vocal cuts through the violin and accompaniment. It’s pure country music that is far removed from the slick pop Nashville began manufacturing decades after this groundbreaking disc. “Paying for That Back Street Affair” is one of three Billy Wallace titles, featuring the lyrics “you gambled and I lost/now I must pay with hours of despair.” The songs are full of someone having done someone wrong, and though there is a sameness throughout, vocally and instrumentally, the purity of Wells’ performance and sincerity makes the 12 short stories very appealing. “I don’t claim to be an angel, my life’s been full of sin” is her statement, and she’s sticking to it. Wells covers Roy Acuff, Zeke Clements, and J.B. Miller, and the work is consistently high. The passion in the opening track, Jimmy Work’s “Making Believe,” is powerful stuff, but it’s her performance on the Eddie Miller/Dube Williams/Robert Yount classic “Release Me” which is the album’s high point, as influential as the hit “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” This track may have helped establish Engelbert Humperdinck’s career as he took the song to the Top Five in 1967. Jimmy Heap had a country hit with the “Release Me” in 1955, and Esther Phillips took it to the top of the R&B charts in 1962 (as well as Top Ten on the Top 40), but Kitty Wells adds something extra to it here, and her performance of the tune is timeless. Release Me doesn’t have “your lips are sweet as honey” lines, but “There’s Poison in Your Heart” lines, and maybe that’s what makes it so effective. Still, Kitty Wells can take corny country lyrics and deliver them with total sincerity. Kitty Wells Country Hit Parade is a classic of the genre and gave inspiration to decades of male and female vocalists who went on to inspire others. It is entertaining beyond its historical importance.
Good information on ABES BOOKS: ” Not a book but a 12-inch, 33-1/3 rpm “Long Play High Fidelity” (mono) vinyl record album, Decca DL 8293, near-mint vinyl in a near-mint cardboard jacket with one banged corner and a couple of faint tape or sticker ghosts to verso. The Queen of Country Music offers “Release Me,” “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On,” Roy Acuff’s “Searching for a Soldier’s Grave,” and, of course, J.B. Miller’s “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30369640277&cm_mmc=ggl--COM_Shopp_Rare--naa-_-naa&gclid=CjwKCAjwh7H7BRBBEiwAPXjadiZVWfLMsW_cScHxmNUFji-yRf0fljozANaQ5Vo6sC2irruAMkKcaRoCxl4QAvD_BwE
Boston Rock and Roll History in the Making /
Hear the Anthology Chapter #21 on Mixcloud: https://tinyurl.com/Anthchapter21
This will be our THIRTIETH COMPILATION of local music with many more to come. The CD comes with a booklet, the story of the anthology series and information on each track with the music in the back of the booklet. Produced and directed by Joe Viglione, Varulven Records P.O. Box 2392, Woburn MA 01888 Co-sequencing and assembling: Kenny Selcer. Mastered by Rob Fraboni.
First Video from Anthology Chapter #21
“As it Is” Karmacar Directed and Produced by Jaylie Jo Wayling, granddaughter of Jo Jo Laine.
As It Is
Release Date: September 18, 2020
A Rolling Stones Review by Joe Viglione
Joe Viglione, Varulven Records