Happy Birthday Grandma Playlist


Probably more than half the reason I’m such a soul music junkie is that my late Grandmother, between reruns of Bewitched would spin her seemingly endless record collection that started in her teen years in the late 50s, and ended in the 1970s.

Half the time I feel like I’m chasing down every single sonic memory from the point in my life. Or reliving the thrill she had each time some song touched her soul as she heard it on a transistor radio in an Apartment on the south side of Chicago in 1965.

1) Estelle Brown – Stick Close (1965)

With this discovery this week, it becomes apparent that just about all of the women that were Drinkard Sisters/Sweet Inspirations/Gospelaires at some point released solo singles. Here’s Estelle Brown’s effort, the lovely cha cha “Stick Close” and

2) Sylvia Shemwell – “He’ll Come Back To Me” (1963)

One of those lovely woman scorned numbers, well, one of thousands really. So if you were looking to have a hit record with it, well… yeah.

3) Deena Johnson “The Breaking Point” (1965)

I think so far this is my favorite discovery of just hunting around this early summer for new old stuff to listen to. Turns out that “Deena Johnson” is singer-songwriter Josephine Armistead, who first got her start on the Top 20 Ikettes hit “I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song)” and was the 3rd writing partner in the Ashford and Simpson writing team before they went to Motown in late 1966.

4) Jerry Butler “Whatever You Want” (1963)

Jerry Butler did some of the best string spliced Chicago Early soul, and this B-side released in 1963 lets his voice flourish and shine like many of his splendid productions in that time period, but is a rare treat to the ears

5) Laura Nyro – Stoney End (1966)

It still surprises people that growing up a lot of white artists of the 1960s were a staple in my listening diet, especially someone as cult figure-ish as Laura Nyro. But one listen to both sides of her first single, especially “Stoney End” with it’s gospel/girl group roots very visible and not too far from “Mama Said” it can be seen how this was always a favorite growing up. And yes, I think Barbra Streisand’s version is souless and sucks

6) Jackie Wilson – “Haunted House” (1964)

It’s weird not to see a Teddy Randazzo production credit on the label of this Jackie Wilson single, because it bears every imprint of concurrent Little Anthony & The Imperials/Royalettes singles, basically putting an R&B act in the most ornate quasi operatic settings possible. Of course I like the audible drama. And Jackie Wilson was as close as it got to an Opera singer in R&B at the time.

7) The O’Jays “Break Down (and Let It All Out)” (1965)

More than a half decade before they broke through big time with “Back Stabbers” The O’Jays were cutting uptown soul masterpieces like this version of this Van McCoy number mostly associated with Nina Simone.

8) The Drew-Vels – Creepin’ (1964)

See, “creepin'” isn’t something that T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili Created! This 1964 non hit for Patty Drew and her sisters follow up to “Tell Him” introduced the idea of creeping on the downlow 30 years prior.

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9) The Supremes – “Too Much A Little Too Soon” (1965)

I remember one of the “new” releases my grandmother invested in during 1987 was Diana Ross and The Supremes: The Never Before Released Masters and this was one of the interesting songs recorded by the trio that was left in the vaults as they recorded and toured and rehearsed for 50 weeks a year at their peak.

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10) Florence Ballard – “Forever Faithful” (1968)

Along with today would have being my grandmother’s 67th birthday, it would have also been Florence Ballard, founding member of The Supremes 67th Birthday also. Here’s one of the last songs she recorded for ABC records, and amongst her best, the flipside to her last solo single “Love Ain’t Love”

11) “Little” Peggy March – “Fool, Fool, Fool” (1966)

Apparently Peggy March made some Awesome Soul records after her early peak with her version of “I’ll Follow Him” in 1963. Sadly they’re pretty much neglected efforts now, like her version of “Fool, Fool, Fool” from 1966.

12) The Springfields – Island of Dreams (1963)

The Springfields biggest UK hit before Dusty Springfield went solo in the Fall of 1963 showcases why, well, Dusty didn’t need her older brother, nor needed to shackle her voice to being the British equivalent to Peter, Paul and Mary. The wistful soul that shines through on Dusty’s solos point to deeper emotions than you can tap into in Folk music, but a delightful postcard to what was and to become.

13) Wendy Rene – Bar-b-q (1964)

It’s the week before 4th of July, and you are so un-American if this song doesn’t at least want you to eat some BBQ Tofu and Potato Salad. Fewer songs are so gleeful about food.

14) The Secrets – The Boy Next Door (1963)

One of they few copy cat songs in the “My Boyfriends Back” genre was this surprise hit for The Secrets in 1963. The record was such a massive hit that when The Secrets played on the same bill as The Supremes in early 1964, the higher charting “The Boy Next Door” made sure they received higher billing compared to The Supremes, whose “Lovelight” had peaked 5 positions lower than The Secrets big, and only, hit.

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15) The Cookies – Softly In The Night (1963)

And to round things out, a lovely b-side that was popular in Philadelphia for the oh so sweet Cookies that can be seen as the answer to the above Drew-Vels song. enjoy.

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