Life & Soul- COLIN DILNOT'S REVIEWS
Dan Greer In Conversation with Colin Dilnot
(pictures with Colin and also at Royal Recording Studios, Memphis 2001 - taken by Martin Goggin.)
I have become firm friends with
Dan since we first hooked up together on the phone in May 2001.
I was fortunate enough to meet Dan in London in January 2002 at Nick Sand's house who is a mutual friend of us both and who had originally introduced me to him. Dan gave us several hours of his time as we "grilled" him about his long career in the Memphis soul scene.
Dan is a seminal figure in the Memphis soul scene and still continues to produce quality music such as his great message song " A Rat Race" on his new Beale Street CD "Love Is The Message".
I have selected a number of Dan's productions and songs to review and include some of Dan's words about each of the featured records.
Some of the reviews were originally featured on Richard Searling's UK Jazz FM radio show "Cellar Full Of Soul" on 14th April 2002, when I was a guest presenting the second part of a retrospective on Dan's music.
Barbara Perry "Unlovable" Goldwax 318
This is a beautiful ballad with a country-feel from a great talent who never got the breaks but who was a very popular performer in the Memphis area.
The song is currently available on Kent's CD 203 The Goldwax Story Volume One.
"She was recording at Goldwax and that was her first recording contract - we did a thing called "Unlovable" and "Say You Need It" - so to my knowledge those were the only two things she ever recorded. We worked on those songs and taught her how to sing them and went into the studio - after we put the tracks together."
James Carr "I Don't Want To Be Hurt Anymore" Goldwax LP 3001 "You Got My Mind Messed Up"
This album only track is often overlooked and it was great to see Kent choosing it for their first CD featuring Goldwax sides. What else can you say about James but he slays Dan's song. Dan worked very closely with James and was responsible for helping him learn those great Goldwax songs before he went into the studio.
"That was a song that I wrote at the old house with the piano and we worked it up and recorded it at Sam Phillips studio after we did A Fool For You which was a single on James."
"James sang gospel music and he was good and he was easy to work with. And all of us during that time while we were in the studio would go round the corner and get a bottle so that he could get some spirit - he was good
people but I found that with a lot of entertainers they need a hit or a pick me up to get into the song so to speak."
Marjorie Ingram "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" Bennett
A truly under-rated classic soul side and one of the best songs George and Dan wrote but sadly seems to get little attention because it was not a Goldwax or Sounds of Memphis record.
"Well Marjorie - we worked with her down in Muscle Shoals and Rick Hall produced her on several things - one was "I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than A Young Man's Fool) and Rick put Candi Staton's voice on it. Candi got the deal and Rick released her stuff on Capitol and that left Marjorie hanging. So I said; "Come on Marjorie we are going to do something together" - so this song A Good Man Is Hard To Find. We had a wonderful time recording the song - she was a beautiful girl to work with"
Wilson Pickett "Save Me" Atlantic Atlantic LP 8215 "Hey Jude"
A 1969 track recorded at Fame Studios and produced by Rick Hall - a gritty tune written with George Jackson. At this time, George Jackson was contracted to Fame after Goldwax had folded and left him and Dan looking for new opportunities.
"I wrote "Save Me"
and that was for the Atlantic stable and we put the demo down - George and I -
so when Wilson came in he sang it and its been a pretty good record for us -
and we still make a little money every know and then."
Arthur Conley "Stuff You Gotta Watch" Atco LP 33-276 More Sweet Soul
Dan got the opportunity to work with Arthur because of his link up with Fame. Though this Tom Dowd produced piece of funky southern soul was recorded in the American Recording Studios in Memphis. Dan Greer co-wrote the song with George Jackson and Tom Dowd got a slice of the credits as well. This song was also recorded by Aretha Franklin but still lies in the Fame vaults.
"I spoke to Arthur last year in Nice about Tom Dowd and those days back in Muscle Shoals when he was in the Atlantic stable. I wasn't there when he recorded it but it is one of the songs we wrote and it became a hit for him"
By coincidence, I literally bumped into Arthur at the 2001 Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Holland while walking around the Vredenburg concert hall - I had to pinch myself when I was told by a Dutch friend Harry who we had bumped into and been talking to!!!!
Ovations "Touching Me" Sounds Of Memphis LP 701 "Hooked On A Feeling"
A beautiful song that reached No 19 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1972 and has the unmistakable lead vocals of Louis Williams inspired by Sam Cooke. The album was a new start for the label and was one of their biggest successes. Dan worked with George Jackson again and a host of Memphis "greats" such as the Hi-Rhythm Section to produce one of the great Memphis albums.
"I had worked with the Ovations at Goldwax and Louis was always a treat to work with because I could sing him the melody and he could articulate what I meant in any particular part of the song. He always loved to sing Sam Cooke songs so I would write things that Sam would do. I would have to show Louis how to do it and put the tracks down and when Louis came in I would give him a tape and he would go home and listen to it. He would come back to studio and we would record it except "Touching Me". He nailed that right away - We
got mad with each other in the studio and he said; "I don't know whether I can feel this song. I had to show him how to do it and I had to get in the booth with him and then he sang it right away and knocked the paint off it."
Barbara Brown "Pity A Fool" Sounds of Memphis 709
It's hard to choose between Barbara's version and Carl Sims's for Wet Paint but this version is the one that has gained a lot of exposure over the last couple of years. Slightly faster and lighter and due to come out on the Modern Soul Connoisseurs CD in mid 2002 compiled by Richard Searling who has featured the song many times on his Jazz FM show "Cellar Full Of Soul"
"Barbara was a trooper - she had a couple of cousins singing with her. One of the sweetest persons - a nice little soft voice and she was a large woman...a treat to work with and a professional in every way. She grasped
the music so well and so quickly and we had a great time working together"
Spencer Wiggins "I Can't Be Satisfied" Sounds of Memphis 716
One of my favourite tracks of all time and I have now been fortunate enough to speak to the singer and the writer!! Spencer was another former Goldwax performer Dan was keen to work with at Sounds of Memphis. This mighty ballad is just about as good as southern soul gets.
"Initially we recorded that on the Ovations on the "Hooked On A Feeling" album. Spencer just loved the track and he said that he wanted to record it. So when we signed Spencer we always knew that was a great song so we made it the first release on Spencer and hey man he knocked the paint off it - he quite naturally took it home and studied it and came back and did it in I think 2 takes."
Carl Sims "I Know How To Love A Woman" Beale Street 7501
One of Carl's more obscure 45's - this is a very good ballad which takes a few plays to sink in. My copy came off the floor of Dan's office and Dan himself couldn't confirm either way whether this was actually released
because all the sides, which have turned up are doubled-sided demos.
Carl is still out there producing good music and his last CD "M&M Man" is well worth searching
"Carl and I started working
together at Sounds of Memphis. He had been the first lead singer of the
Bar-Kays and had been on the plane when Otis went down. We started working
together and though he had a great voice he always wanted to sound like Wilson
Pickett but he couldn't come off in the studio because he was so hyper! I
always had this knack of working with vocalists and settling them down a bit -
we did several things with Carl that really came out well like "Pity A
Fool" and "Word Is Out" and "I know How To Love A
Woman" was the first thing we recorded on Carl but we did not release it
initially because we wanted something up tempo so we released "Word Is
Out" and "Do-Gooders"".
Quiet Elegance "Roots Of Love" Hi 77503
A catchy beater with a kind of Miami feel in the melody with excellent lead from Frankie Gearing with her gospel tinged voice backed up marvellously by Mildred Vaney and Lois Reeves.
"We finished it in 1976 but in 1977 we were getting ready to release it and that's when Hi sold the record company to Cream and the "Roots" thing came out and it was an ideal situation for us and we tried to negotiate with them to make that the soundtrack to "Roots" because it never had a soundtrack and
so they were all high on that but nothing ever came from it - they loved the track when we did it and Frankie and those girls were all great singers and troopers"
Frankie Gearing "Spinning Top" Beale Street 1179
The only 45 to be released from the 1980 Japanese Vivid Sound album "Just Frankie". Recorded at the Mastercraft Studios in Memphis and produced by Dan and written by him and Robert Owens.
This track is a very catchy song and has a superb backing from a host of Memphis musicians such as the Hodge Brothers and Howard Grimes.
Louis Williams also recorded a
version of the song in 1985, which was eventually released on his 1993 Beale
Street CD "Ole Beale Street Salutes Sam Cooke".
"Strange song!! The writer Robert Owens brought the song in and I liked the song immediately but a lot of writers come in with part of the song and so we sat down and collaborated. I had this idea for "Spinning Top" - I wanted it to sound like a spinning top so that's why it was a little different in the production than most songs because we wanted to have that type of spinning sound. In fact, it was one of the songs that Frankie picked up that she wanted to record."
Louis Williams "You're Still A Part Of Me" Beale Street CD 1001 "Ole' Beale Street Salutes Sam Cooke
This song has been a familiar favourite by the Minits for years but is taken to another plane by Louis Williams. This has to be one of the last great Southern Soul albums recorded in 1985 and contains a host of musicians and singers reading like a Memphis who's who of soul. What makes it the last great albums is the fact that it has good songs, real instruments and a full-scale orchestra.
I have played this version of the song several times on Jazz FM's Cellar Full of Soul when I've guested on Richard Searling's show and I have always had a lot of feedback.
"We did the Minits thing first and I always thought it was a great song. We did another song called "Follow Your Heart" and half the DJ's played "Follow Your Heart" and half of them played "You're Still A Part Of Me". So we had split thing on that but both of the records were pick-hits by Billboard and Cashbox and Record World at that time."
"So when Louis came a long and said; "Let's do this song - this is a great song this could be a single". Louis just loved this and said; "I want to sing with myself on that." We did that and he really came off well"
If you want to read more about Dan then you can read an article based on my
interviews with him in the UK based magazine "In The Basement" Issue 26
May-July 2002. The magazine is available from Dave Cole, 193 Queens Park
Road Brighton Sussex UK or from his website www.basement-group.co.uk
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