Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Found A Love, Falcons (1962)

Remember Wilson Pickett?  Remember the Ohio Players?  Well, this is the post wherein I show that there is only one degree of separation between them.

Back in 2008 when I wrote about Pickett and his 634-5789, I learned that he had been, for a time, the teen-aged lead singer of a Detroit-based group called the Falcons - his first foray into secular music after a life entirely oriented to singing gospel. In my post, I embedded a YouTube video of him stopping the show with the Falcons at the Apollo, the very embodiment of the term "soul howler." I've not been able to stop thinking about that song.  

Of course, Warner Music Group took the video down eventually and I've had a terrible time finding any online version of it - until just this week when I resurrected this gem from an mp3 on someone's now-defunct blog.  The song, I Found A Love, was a smash hit on the R&B charts for the Falcons, which included Eddie Floyd and Mack Rice, who eventually wrote Mustang Sally and Respect Yourself. 

The Falcons, formed in 1955, were one of the first 50's groups to make the jump from a doo-woppy R&B sound to the harder-edged soul that exploded in the 60's.  In 1959, they had their first catchy hit, You're So Fine. The following year, Wilson Pickett replaced Levi Stubbs' brother Joe as one of the two lead singers (Floyd being the other) and turned up the heat quite a few notches with songs like I Found A Love, which Pickett co-wrote.  As a matter of fact, in the lyrics, a reference to "in the midnight hour" foreshadows his later hit, co-written with Stax' Steve Cropper. (Pickett recorded I Found A Love as a solo artist in 1967.)   

So how do the Ohio Players enter into this?  Weren't they the 70's funk group known for such finery as Love Rollercoaster?  They certainly were.  But before morphing into the Ohio Players, they were known as the Ohio Untouchables, and it is they who are the remarkable backing band to I Found A Love.  I only know this because since I've become a frequent user of Inter-Library Loan and order up all kinds of crazy music books that I would otherwise never have access to, I am now in temporary possession of an amazing volume called Joel Whitburn Presents Top R&B Singles 1942-1999.    

Never mind what's in this 700 page delight - most people would die of ennui just glancing at it.  But for me, it's a gold mine. And I thought, why not look up the Falcons, and see what it says about their hits?  Maybe it could lead me to excavate I Found A Love from ... somewhere.  Mission accomplished!  There with the notes about when the song charted and other arcane items was a reference to the Ohio Untouchables as the "band."  What the what?  Being the Ohioan I am, I had to see what I could find on this outfit, which led me eventually to the mp3..

The Ohio Untouchables was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1959.  In 1961, they joined the small Lu Pine label that had been launched by a relative of the group's founder, guitarist Robert Ward (this relative, Robert West, was also apparently related to Eddie Floyd); at first they mainly accompanied other Lu Pine acts, which included the Falcons. In certain circles, Ward was much admired for his magnificent guitar work, which produced a distinctive vibrato sound using a Magnatone amplifier.

Most of the original members of the Ohio Untouchables, including Ward, eventually moved on, but Clarence Satchell, who played sax, bassist Marshall Jones, and vocalist Bernie McCain returned to Dayton and formed the Ohio Players in 1967.  The times they were a-changing.

Ward's career had its ups and downs after that, and he eventually got caught in a downward personal spiral that included some prison time. He was re-discovered in 1990 after years in obscurity - an independent record producer made it known he wanted to find him at all costs, and when Ward happened to walk into Fretware Guitars outside of Dayton one day, phone calls were made. The result was he produced some electrifying work with the Fear No Evil LP (plus two others) before his death in 2008.  I'll play myself out with his Lord Have Mercy On Me.


Holly A Hughes said...

That's some pretty impressive detective work there! This stuff is all so fascinating...

Chuck said...

Impressive detective work indeed, but if I were Pickett I would not necessarily want anyone to know that the forerunner to the Ohio Players was the back-up band to such a great song.