By Rev. Billy C. Wirtz
Each week Rev. Billy C. Wirtz tells us about artists, albums, and music that we need to know about. Sometimes he writes about other things.
Somewhere off the coast of Mexico
Blues Revue Circulation Director Jack Sullivan spotted me heading for a late-night snack, talking as usual to myself after Bobby Womack‘s somewhat bizarre set on the main deck of Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.
In every senses of the word, Womack is true genius. Along with an incredibly soulful voice, he has written some great music, spanning over four decades.
From his earliest days in Sixties with The Valentinos, during which time he penned two huge hits for other groups, “Lookin’ For A Love,” covered by J Geils, and “It’s All Over Now,” covered by The Stones, and on past the millennium he has stretched the boundaries of R&B and soul, while never losing sight of his roots.
On this particular night, maybe it was the tropical humidity or a bad case of “Cruiser Crud,” but over a period of two hours, he went off-script and seemed to be playing “stump the band,” with widely varying results. A couple of times the band fell right in, but when he began pulling out tunes like “Jesus, Build A fence Around Me,” from his early days in gospel, and chastising the rhythm section, it got uncomfortable.
Anyway, sorry, Sullie approached me bearing greetings and an offer from Blues Revue/BluesWax Publisher Chip Eagle.
At the time I was not doing real well. My knee was shot, I didn’t have thirty grand for the needed surgery, and once again, I was experiencing severe and constant pain, fighting a daily battle with the goofy pills and having trouble getting out of first gear in general. So the idea of a reoccurring column (and paycheck) was appealing. I had written some columns for Chip a few years ago, but we kind of drifted apart.
On December 16, 2011, a tribute to Howard Tate became the first installment of “Slipped Discs.”
I was originally going to write short mini-reviews of cool records and CDs that I felt had gotten unfairly forgotten or not even been heard of by many of today’s listeners.
In particular, I wanted to see classic gospel get its due. Apparently, there are a lot of other gospel fans out there as right from the start I began getting all kinds of feedback and encouragement, and Amazon sold out of the Holy Rollers collection following my review of it. After that, as the young folks say: “It was on.”
With the success of the “Gospel 101″ series, Chip pretty much gave me open license to write about anything I wanted.
From Andy Griffith‘s blues album to the “X-Rated” versions of “Stagger Lee,” to “outing” my own struggles with struggles with a lifelong learning disability, “Slipped Discs” became a weekly challenge/hair-pull for all parties concerned, with some unanticipated results. I’ve been privileged to work with Dr. Jerry Zolten, author of Great God A’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music, the definitive biography of the Dixie Hummingbirds, and on a regular basis I am on the receiving end of praise and occasional ire of such highly respected music authorities as Bob Porter…
In spite of my occasional grumbling at being corrected on certain points, I’m truly humbled and flattered by such attention from Bob and others who are as passionate about the music and i’s story as I am.
January 11, 2013
As usual, I’m late on deadline and the article I am now tweaking bears only a passing resemblance to the one I started out to write two days ago.
This week’s column is number 47, which means in the past year I’ve now written a total of around 70,000 words about the music that, beginning with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band‘s first album back in 1966, opened a door that hasn’t shut since. None of this would have been possible without Chip Eagle’s constant guidance, comments, and interest. Thanks to his refusal to accept anything but my best, and his constant encouragement, especially in those early days when I was still a little shaky after the knee surgery, this has turned into something I’m proud of.
Next week, before beginning a new series, I’ll review some of my favorite columns, answer a couple of comments from readers I’ve missed, and add some links and back stories I’ve come across in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, for all you fellow gospel lovers, check out a couple of these:
You dig Sam and Dave?
Check out The O’Neal Twins:
How about Roscoe Robinson singing the Archie Brownlee classic:
Back in gospel’s golden era, this women’s group struck terror into the hearts out of everyone sharing the stage with them, this one will rearrange your head. Inez Andrews with the Caravans:
Finally, here’s another version of “May Don’t You Weep” by Cissy Houston and The Gospel Allstars:
The others are great, but, trust me, this last one will put the hurt on you.
Rev. Billy C. Wirtz is a weekly columnist at BluesWax. Each week he finds artists, albums, and music that you should know about. He also plays piano. His radio show, Rev. Billy’s Rhythm Revival, is available in podcast. To hear the latest, go to Rev. Billy C. Wirtz’ page on Facebook and look for the link.
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