Playlist: A James Hunter Education
On Friday, July 13, The James Hunter Six will lead us back to the early days of R&B, when it was "part rock 'n' roll, part jump blues, all...swagger" (NPR). Before he hits the stage, James agreed to share some of his earliest musical influences with us—or, as he put it, "What I Growed Up Listenin' To."
"Baby I Need Your Loving" by Four Tops
Every time I hear this it evokes my early childhood in Monkwick, a council housing estate in Colchester. I was only two when it came out so they must have given it a lot of airplay over the next two years for me to remember it.
"Big Head (Big 'Ead)" by Max Bygraves
We moved to Australia in 1970 and stayed with a family friend who (never the utmost in hipness) was a Max Bygraves fan. I didn't realize at the time this was a parody on the over-emotive style of Johnny Ray, who soaked up some of the advance ridicule that would be lavished on Elvis a couple of years later.
"Reet Petite" by Jackie Wilson
Back to Blighty in 1972 and straight into a housing crisis, solved by Ernie Nappett, who rented us his caravan by an onion field in Thorrington Cross. Not a lot of entertainment on offer, so our grandmother gave us a Dansette record player and a stack of '78s. This was one of them. Apparently it had been a much bigger hit in the UK in '57 than it had been in the States, which was why my grandmother had it.
"The Lord Don't Treat His Chillun That Way" by Frankie Laine
I often misrepresent my grandmother's '78 collection as a treasure trove of R&B just because one of them was Jackie Wilson's "Reet Petite". This is a far more typical sample. Fortunately this tune didn't drive me into the arms of the Almighty, possibly because the piano seems to belong more in a pub than a church.
"Cum On Feel The Noize" by Slade
Part of the soundtrack of my childhood. At the time I had little patience with the onslaught of "Brickies in Bacofoil" (as my friend Martin Newell puts it) and I wish I had liked this as much as I do now.
"Free" by Deniece Williams
The first record bought with my own money. Probably because I fancied her, but I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't liked it.
"Shakin' All Over" by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates
Johnny Kidd wrote his own number-one hit three years before the Beatles, tackled R&B two years before, the Stones and inspired The Who by dispensing with the standard rhythm guitarist, forcing the remaining axe-tickler to fill out the sound on his own. It didn't take long for him to be obscured by the shadow of Merseybeat, mainly through putting more emphasis on his stage act than choice of material, but for a while he was Britain's biggest threat.
"Nasty Nasty" by 999
As a confirmed Ted, I liked the Punk movement because I thought it would be the kick up the arse that rock 'n' roll had been twenty years earlier. Some of it was and some of it wasn't.
"Dimples" by John Lee Hooker
During my Punk period I read an interview with Wreckless Eric, who mentioned Hooker in the same breath as Chuck Berry. So I checked him out. And I wasn't disappointed.
"It Ain't No Use" by Lou Johnson
A much more recent acquisition. Discovered the criminally overlooked Lou Johnson through the miracle of YouTube. This is the man who recorded most of the songs that Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield later had hits with.