Billboard Soul Charts
In 1967 the Billboard magazine began to issue an attachment called the World of Soul. The 1968 edition came out on August 17 and summarized in figures and words much of what I experienced that summer. (These 1967 and 1968 magazines have kindly been provided by Per Oldaeus). It lists the best sellers (during 1/1 – 1/6 1968) and the most popular artists.
The artists I had seen on stage, met or talked to or talked about with their managers in the summer of 1968, are marked with a * and among the category “other” artists only those artists are included.
(I had seen Otis Redding in 1967 and Wilson Pickett in 1969 in Sweden.)
TOP R&B ARTISTS OF 1968 (According to Billboard) – and number of singles entering the charts. (”Soul” is still called ”R&B”)
January 1-6, 1968. (number of hits)
1. Aretha Franklin (Atlantic ) (4)
2. *James Brown & The Famous Flames (King) (6)
3. Temptations (Gordy) (4)
4. *Otis Redding (Volt) (2)
5. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (Tamla) (3)
6. Impressions (ABC) (2)
7. *Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (Tamla) (2)
8. *Wilson Pickett (Atlantic) (4)
9. *Delfonics (Philly Groove, Moonshot) (3)
10. *Gladys Knight & The Pips (Soul) (2)
(Others *: 15. Joe Tex, 21. Willie Mitchell, 22. Jerry Butler, 24. Archie Bell & The Drells, 26. Ray Charles, 27. Marvelettes, 30. Bobby Bland, 36. William Bell, 43. Stevie Wonder, 46. Jr. Walker, 48. Esquires).
Billboards Album-chart, January 1-6, 1968. (Number of LPs listed)
1. Temptations (Gordy) (4)
2. Aretha Franklin (Atlantic ) (3)
3. Dionne Warwick (Scepter) (4)
4. *Otis Redding (Volt) (3)
5. Four Tops (Motown) (2)
6. *Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise) (2)
7. *Wilson Pickett (Atlantic) (2)
8. Diana Ross & The Supremes (Motown) (2)
9. Wes Montgomery (A&M, Verve) ( 3)
10. *Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (Tamla) (2)
(Others*: 14. Gladys Knight & The Pips, 16. James Brown, 19. Joe Tex, 22. Ray Charles, 30. Booker T & The MGs, 36. Stevie Wonder, 38. Willie Mitchell, 42. Bobby Bland.)
(I had seen Jimi Hendrix in 1966 in Sweden.)
(James Brown was not an LP-artist while artists like Four Tops and Dionne Warwick, who sold better to white people, did better on the album chart than on the single-list, where they entered place no. 34 and 17 respectively. Myself I had concentrated to see the hit makers before the more sophisticated album artists.)
The best selling 45s, January 1-6, 1968:
1. *”(Sittin’ on the) Dock Of The Bay,” Otis Redding (Volt)
2. “We’re A Winner,” Impressions (ABC)
3. “I Wish It Would Rain,” Temptations (Gordy)
4. “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone,” Aretha Franklin (Atlantic)
5. “Chain Of Fools,” Aretha Franklin (Atlantic)
6. “Dance To The Music,” Sly & The Family Stone (Epic)
7. *”La La Means I Love You,” Delfonics (Philly Groove)
8. *”I Thank You,” Sam & Dave (Stax)
9. *”I Got The Feelin’,” James Brown & The Famous Flames (King)
10. “Sweet Inspiration,” Sweet Inspirations (Atlantic)
(*: I had seen the hit maker)
Others:* (Whom I had met, seen on stage or talked to their managers):
12. “If You Can Want Smokey,” Robinson & The Miracles (Tamla)
13. “Soul Serenade,” Willie Mitchell (Hi)
15. “Tighten Up,” Archie Bell & The Drells (Atlantic)
16. “There Was A Time,” James Brown (King)
18. “End Of Our Road,” Gladys Knight & The Pips (Soul)
19. “My Baby Must Be A Magician,” Marvelettes (Tamla)
23. “I Second That Emotion,” Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (Tamla)
25. “I Can’t Stand Myself,” James Brown (King)
30. “Lost,” Jerry Butler (Mercury)
31. “Drifting Blues,” Bobby Bland (Duke)
35. “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day,” Stevie Wonder (Tamla)
36. “I Heard It Through The Grapewine,” Gladys Knight & The Pips (Soul)
38. “That’s A Lie,” Ray Charles (ABC)
41. “Come See About Me,” Jr.Walker (Soul)
46. “Showtime,” Detroit Emeralds (Ric Tic)
50. “What Is This,” Bobby Womack (Minit)
71. “A Tribute To A King,” William Bell (Stax)
79. “And Get Away,” Esquires (Bunky)
Best selling albums, January 1-6, 1968:
1. In A Mellow Mood Temptations (Gordy)
2. Lady Soul Aretha Franklin (Atlantic)
3. *History of Otis Redding (Volt)
4. Greatest Hits Diana Ross & The Supremes (Motown)
5. Groovin’ With The Soulful Strings (Cadet)
6. A Day In The Life Wes Montgomery (A&M)
7. Golden Hits Part 1 Dionne Warwick (Scepter)
8. Greatest Hits Four Tops (Motown)
9. Greatest Hits Temptations (Gordy)
10. *Are You Experienced Jimi Hendrix Experience (Reprise)
14. Greatest hits Vol 2 Smokey Robinson & Miracles (Tamla)
18. Everybody Needs Love Gladys Knight & Pips (Soul)
24. Live & Lively Joe Tex (Dial)
27. I Can’t Stand Myself When You Touch Me James Brown (King)
33. Make It Happen Smokey Robinson & Mircles (Tamla)
35. James Brown presents his show of Tomorrow (var. artists) (King)
41. Doin’ Our Thing Booker T. & The MGs (Stax)
45. Portrait of Ray Charles (ABC)
The most successful record companies – and their number of single-hits, January 1-6, 1968:
1. Atlantic (22)
2. Tamla (9)
3. Stax (12)
4. ABC (7)
5. Gordy (8)
6. King (6)
7. Cadet (7)
8. Soul (4)
9. Volt (3)
10. Chess (5)
11. Duke (4)
24. Hi (1)
Or Atlantic (22), Tamla/Motown/Gordy/Soul group: (21), Stax/Volt: (15), Chess/Cadet (12), ABC (7), King (6), Duke (4), Hi (1).
The most successful record companies – and the number of LP listings, January 1-6, 1968
1. Atlantic (21 LPs)
2. Motown (6)
3. Gordy (6)
4. Scepter (4)
5. Reprise (3)
6. Volt (3)
7. Tamla (4)
8. Cadet (5)
9. ABC (3)
10. A&M (3)
16. Stax (2)
25. Hi (1)
28. Duke (1)
Motown and its various companies Gordy-Tamla-Soul-V.I.P (16 LPs) sold considerably more LPs than the southern states labels Stax-Volt and Duke and Hi (7 LPs).
Overall, I think I got a good picture of the current soul scene. It’s fair to say that I had seen circa 20% of the most popular artists and visited several leading record companies. Had I stayed for a year I could have seen almost all popular artists and inspected many more local scenes too. (Had I stayed in New York and visited the Apollo Theater every week I would have accomplished it there too.)
The big misses were that I never saw Aretha Franklin and the Temptations on stage, and that I was not let in at Motown in Detroit (but only visited their west coast office). Aretha was by far the best female singer, and had a typical and ideal background. She was the daughter of Detroit’s most prominent church leader, C. L. Franklin, who is considered the greatest religious orator of his time alongside Dr Martin Luther King Jr. One of C.Ls girlfriends, Clara Ward babysat and became Aretha’s mentor. Clara and Mahalia Jackson competed for the title of top female gospel singer.
When Billboard in 1967 started The World Of Soul edition they intended to document the blues and its many subgroups. They paid great attention to the blues-revival wave that swept over Europe with the Rolling Stones at the forefront. “Chess Records expects that teenage audiences will soon hear Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson when you see how good their phenomenal Real Folk Blues Series sold in the universities.”
Perhaps they were not aware of the fact that the connection between blues and soul music is weak. The main foundation of soul music is gospel. Already in the 1950s, gospel trained singers started invading the R&B charts.
But it started long ago.
In the mid-1700s a Christian revival movement came from Europe. Missionary organizations from London sent hymnbooks to America. Dr. Isaac Watts had reworked the Bible Psalms to rhythmic four-line verses. This book hit like a bomb in the slave colonies.
They were not allowed to read or write so they learned the book by heart. A lead singer sang one line and the assembly repeated it. This call and response style was also used in the work songs. In correspondence between the US and London, the missionaries spoke of how sought after and popular Dr. Watts’ book had become.
From there came the Negro Spirituals – the foundation of Gospel Music. Watts’ book is still widely used in the church as well as the Baptist Church song book from 1921 – “Gospel Pearls.” (143 of the 163 songs there are by white composers).
Today, the old English hymn “Amazing Grace” is still the most popular gospel-song. Many believe that Dr. Watts’ hymn book is the single most important influence that Afro-American Music have received from Europe during the last 250 years, other music from Beethoven to the Beatles included.
In 1865, when slavery was abolished, Negro Spirituals were a popular form of music. In 1867 the song-book Slave Songs were published and in 1871 singers from the Negro Fisk University started touring all over the world.
On the April 9, 1906, a revival started in the black churches in Los Angeles when Jennie Evans began speaking in tongues. The service was henceforth increasingly focused on being filled with the Holy Spirit, ecstasy and to speak in tongues. Gospel music was a powerful tool for this, while the traditional Negro Spiritual were sung in a more “dignified” manner in songs like “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Go Down Moses.” etc. The gospel singers pressed harder, experimenting and screaming to get a maximum emotional expression and response.
Around 1930 this can be heard on record. And in 1945 at the end of the World War II, a new generation of male and female gospel singers are ready.
Their way of singing is rapidly taken up in Rhythm & Blues. The first big star is Roy Brown, and Dinah Washington started as a gospel singer. Then came The 5 Royales, Clyde McPhatter, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson and many others.
Twenty years later the whole genre of R&B is renamed “soul.” Even many dance steps were born in the church. When James Brown was gliding across the stage on one leg so had ordinary churchgoers in ecstasy done in the 1940s in the COGIC and other black churches. In the Billboard (1968) is a list of soul artists and their managers and booking agencies. Big companies like William Morris Agency and Shaw have existed for a long time. They usually had their offices in New York and Los Angeles and also worked with film actors. It was a mistake that summer that besides Buffalo Booking Agency in Houston I did not visit any other.
The artists I came in contact with, or are mentioned in the text had the following Personal Managers (PM) and Booking Agencies (BA) according to Billboard:
Buddy Ace – PM: Fats Washington BA: Buffalo Booking and Fats W.
Vicki Anderson – PM: James Brown BA: Universal Attractions
Ruby Andrews – BA: Associated Booking
Archie Bell & The Drells – PM: Skipper Lee Frazier
William Bell – PM: Henry Wynn BA:Universal Attractions
Bobby Bland – PM: Evelyn Johnson BA: Associated Booking
Booker T & The MGs – PM: BEA, BA: America’s Best and Universal Attractions and Phil Walden
James Brown – PM: Ben Bart BA: Universal Attractions
Jerry Butler – PM: W. Yale Matheson, BA: Associated Booking Corp
Bobby Byrd – PM: James Brown BA: Universal Attractions
Alvin Cash & The Registers – BA: Texas Ents and Queen Booking
Ray Charles – PM: Joe Adams BA: William Morris
Del-Fonics – PM: Stan Watson BA: Queen Booking
Detroit Emeralds – PM: Ed Wingate BA: Queen Booking
Lee Dorsey – PM: Marshall E. Sehorn
Eddie Floyd – BA: Phil Walden and Associated Booking
Aretha Franklin – PM: Ted White BA: Queen Booking
Lowell Fulsom – PM: Galaxy BA: Big Star and Fats Washington
Betty Harris – BA: Phil Walden
Joe Hinton – BA: Buffalo Booking
Eldridge Holmes – BA: Phil Walden
The Jive Five – PM: Otis Pollard BA: Universal Attractions
Johnny Jones & the King Casuals – PM & BA: Henry Wynn
Gladys Knight & The Pips – PM: Int’l Talent Mgmt BA: Lee Craver Prods.
Shorty Long – PM: Taylor Cox BA: Motown
Pigmeat Markham – BA: Universal Attractions (Dick Allen)
Marvelettes – PM: Int’l Talent Mgmt BA: Queen Booking
Miracles – PM: Taylor Cox BA: Motown
Willie Mitchell – PM: Joe Cuoghi BA: National Artists Attractions and Associated Booking
The Monitors – PM: Int’l Talent Mgmt
The Mystics – PM: Syndicated Prods BA: Associated Booking
Billy Preston – PM: Joe Adams BA: William Morris
John Roberts & His Hurricanes – PM: Robert Garner
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – PM: Int’l Mgmt BA: Ashley Famous
The Spinners – PM: Int’t Talent Mgmt BA:Queen Booking /Associated Booking
Edwin Starr – BA: SAC (Shaw Artists Corp)
Temptations – PM: Int’l Talent Mgmt BA: William Morris
Joe Tex – PM: Bea BA: Universal Attractions
Irma Thomas – PM & BA: Vic Despenza
Jamo Thomas – BA: Queen Booking
Rufus Thomas – BA: Deanie Parker
The Vibrations – PM: Carl Davis BA: Queen Booking
Jr Walker & All Stars – BA: Ashley Famous
Jean Wells – PM: Clyde Otis BA: Universal Attractions
Larry Williams – BA: Lee Craver Prods.
Jackie Wilson – PM: Nat Tarnopol BA: Associated Booking
Stevie Wonder – PM: Int’l Talent Mgmt BA: Ashley Famous
Brenton Wood – PM: Sure Shot BA: A.P.A. (Agency of the Performing Arts)(Only Chuck Berry was expressly “selfmanaged” of all the listed artists.)
Local booking agencies in smaller cities were:
Atlanta – Henry Wynn (431 Glen Iris Dr, NE)
Chicago – Texas Enterprises.
Dallas – Fats Washington.
Memphis – National Artists Attractions.
New Orleans -Vic Despenza.
Phil Walden and Otis Redding had offices in the same building: (Redwal Bldg, 535 Cotton Ave, Macon, Georgia).
International Talent Management in Detroit ran Tamla Motown artists reservations and Galaxy Artists was a management and booking company in the same house as Chess in Chicago and they had another BA – Big Star Attractions. The soul (and former gospel) singer Mitty Collier worked at Chess as a personnel manager.
I failed to examine the economy and the organization behind the larger concerts and packet-shows. Billboard noted (The Live R&B Scene -1967) that Otis Redding and a package show pulled in a gross of $ 250,000 per month in 1966 (or $ 8,500 per gig). The year after (1967) Otis Redding with supporting acts had brought in $ 500,000 for 50 performances (or $10,000 per gig).
During the rock and roll era, ten years earlier, the packages were smaller and they visited small towns. But they had built many outdoor venues in the South. A larger Soul package could now contain up to twelve different artists, and cost the organizer between $4000 and $7,500 to hire. These packages could then make a gross of between 10 and $ 15,000 per gig (or 5,000 spectators who paid between $2-$3 ). With the really big arenas a gross could be upwards of $40,000 (10-20000 spectators who paid $2-$4).
In Memphis, Joe Tex had been the main attraction at the Mid-South Coliseum, along with two other artists who were at the top of the charts at the time; Delfonics and Pigmeat Markham, plus circa ten other artists.
Billboard listed the ten soul superstars that could top the bill at such a venue:
James Brown was by far “the undoubtedly biggest audience magnet on the R&B circuit.” He didn’t need other big names on the posters to share his revenue with.
The other nine were (1967): Otis Redding, The Temptations, Four Tops, The Supremes, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, Joe Tex and Billy Stewart. (I think Billy Stewart should be replaced with Sam & Dave and comedian/singer Moms Mabley is another female black superstar alongside the Supremes).
Billboard also noted that Ray Charles and Fats Domino in particular now had more white fans and therefore were less suited for a soul concert.
The big package shows usually had a twenty percent share of white spectators in the South. Sometimes a white artist, who was accepted by blacks, such as Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels or the Young Rascals was added to a package.
A few years earlier, there were “Motown” packages with the most popular Tamla-Motown artists. But now their individual artists had their own package shows.
The leading producers of these packages shows were A.P.O Shows (Miami) and Henry Wynn’s Supersonic Enterprises (Atlanta). Three companies booked ninety percent of the R&B industry’s most popular artists: Universal Attractions, Shaw Artists Corp. (S.A.C.) and Queen Booking Agency.
University students had begun to request R&B/soul artists to their dances. Even fairly well known black artists could earn $2000 per night. Some black artists preferred to work on the weekends and have time off in the weekdays; instead of wearing themselves out on the chitlin’ circuit; with a new venue every night.
James Brown and the Supremes, who were the most popular, could earn $ 12,500 per night for a student gig.
Blues artists like John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed were requested at universities and Hooker could ask for $750 for one night. If a blues singer received $500 a week at a blues club he could now earn $500 for an evening’s work. Many night clubs with mainly white audiences had opened up for black artists. R&B and soul artists generally did better than white pop artists as the R&B/Soul crowd was older and had more money to spend. Blues performers also got bookings at jazz clubs since several years.
Some tour companies like Queen Booking seem to have worked with black artists exclusively. The owner Ruth Bowen took the company name from her former employer Dinah Washington. I had seen Queen artists like the Marvelettes, Jerry Butler, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy McCracklin and the Miracles perform.
Phil Walden Enterprises (1967) was the southern soul’s foremost ambassador with about 35 names in his stable like Otis Redding, Arthur Conley, Jimmy Hughes, Percy Sledge, Eddie Floyd, Joe Simon. Phil also noted that Otis Redding had done more to improve race relations in the South than 100 sit-ins.
A year later (1968) Billboard’s editorial team confirms that 1967 had seen the breakthrough of soul music. Now it even dominated pop music.
Aretha Franklin had four million records sold in 1967. Otis Redding died and James Brown had reinforced his position as the hottest artist on the one-nighter circuit. Popular blues artists were Jimmy Reed, Bobby Bland, BB King, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Lowell Fulson and Albert King.
But the Apollo Theater had difficulty booking artists who were better paid at the universities. A gig at the Apollo was often a way to launch new discs and get additional advertising rather than to make money.
The Apollo put a lot of time in promotion, advertising, radio and advertisements in various record stores and on cooperation with record companies.
The Apollo had 1800 seats. The tickets cost $2 in the daytime and $3 in the evening. If there are 1800 visitors in the afternoon and 1,800 visitors in the evening, it makes $9,000 per day. (I paid $2 in the afternoon and stayed until they closed.)
A popular artist made the people stay longer. James Brown used to have queues winding around the block all the time he was there. But it was rare that the Apollo was sold out the whole week. They sold just popcorn – no booze or beer. I do not think they grossed more than $9,000 per day.
I visited the upper balcony once. There were not many people there on a Sunday afternoon (Perhaps ten to fifteen percent of the seats were taken).
On weekdays, unemployed and school children playing hooky could not fill that many seats either. On the Wednesday Amateur night the theater was full. There were many people at the premiere with The Miracles and Jr Walker on a Friday afternoon. Gladys Knight also drew a lot of people. But when the Marvelettes appeared it was pretty empty even on parquet. The Apollo, and even more than the Regal in Chicago, had trouble paying what several artists were now accustomed to, and they had at least four or five performers on the program.
I have tried to remember how many visitors there were was at a club.
Often it was not more than 350 people who paid $1-$2 during a weekend performance. It meant that the performers had to share a maximum of $500.
On a Monday-Tuesday night there were only one hundred people watching Ike & Tina Turner.
I always listened to the radio in the hotel room. I wanted to hear new records and if there was a soul show in town. But I didn’t hear any live shows with famous artists from the radio studio or live broadcasts from a club. I do not remember that artists on tour, or at the Apollo and Regal, were presented or interviewed. Artists like William Bell was not interviewed by a radio station DJ or newspaper. In short, I never met anyone backstage who wanted to get the attention of the artist (except at the James Brown concert.)
There might be a club photographer taking pictures of patrons. But it was rare. I never saw an extra microphone with the radio station’s letters on stage and I was never present when a live recording was made. Sure, there were often people from the industry in the clubs. Local DJs, other artists visiting a friend – or someone working at a record company. But I didn’t note any major talent scouting at the time.
Shows were advertised on the radio, like Syl Johnson in Memphis, Jackie Wilson in San Jose and James Brown in San Francisco. The advertising was frequent and appeared to be subsidized because it was newsworthy or because the DJs were involved. Al Perkins handled the Syl Johnson advertising and was also the MC at the Paradise Club in Memphis that night.
James Brown appeared frequently on radio, but in the form of pre-recorded tapes. He sometimes had special DJ editions of a record made where he presented himself and the song before the music started.
But there were frequent broadcasts from churches with services and worship. Every city seemed to have a pure gospel music station for this. But I listened mostly to the soul stations that had gospel in the mornings and on Sundays only.
Female DJs were heard in the morning gospel music program when housewives listened. Often a variety of goods were on sale – like holy water, prayer cloths and inspirational reading. Sometimes it sounded as if the DJ had a commission on sales.
The radio station’s playing list was usually not completely predetermined. While the program and music-director were responsible for the play-list, the individual DJ could often choose their own favourites from the list, and sometimes even play a song not there. In each city there were records not heard elsewhere – and never heard again. Listeners could influence the selection by calling the station or drive by sounding the horn or blinking the lights.
But probably not as much as when Elvis or James Brown was first played on the radio. Then the station’s switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree.
Billboard also noted that new artists had the chance to break through with their first disc if it was good enough. That a R&B record that became a pop hit often sold better than a pure pop hit because it sold at two markets.
In 1968 radio stations usually had 40, 50 or 60 songs to chose from. Later, when the number were reduced to 20, no one had to wait more than one hour before their favourite was played. With fewer records it became more difficult for an unknown artist to establish themselves.
Many DJs I met had their own record career as Rufus Thomas, Butterball, Nickey Lee, and Al Perkins. There were many others like Sly, Wolfman Jack, Magnificent Montague, Jerry-O, etc.
Many DJs moonlighted as MCs at shows.
A disc jockey seemed to be a mobile person who moved around from town to town. Maybe because the audience wanted to hear new voices. A few white people worked as DJs at soul stations if they sounded black. Soul stations played almost exclusively black artists: exceptions this summer were Bill Medley, the Young Rascals, and Delaney & Bonnie. But the owners were usually white. They had one or two stations like Zenas Sears in Atlanta or Donald Sundeen in Houston. I suppose that many radio stations later were acquired and became part of a chain which centrally determined which discs to be played.
The club sound in 1968 was usually good. You could hear the instruments and the vocals and earplugs for protection were not needed.
The balance between instruments was good, and the dynamics of the music too. I never noticed that the sound was bad at any concert. Or that I went home unhappy for this reason. A gospel concert in a church could be almost un-amplified.
Today everything is different. The sound engineers can do a marvellous job with an electric guitar but become confused when there is a horn section and back ground vocalists. Then it can sound like a flock of sea gulls have entered the hall.
The flight to and from the United States cost around $200. When I arrived in the US, I had $1,050 to spend. (The exchange rate was 5.20-5.40 SEK / US $). The prospects of sitting on a Greyhound bus between the different cities for 7-10 days made me book a round trip air-ticket. It cost $317.
After buying a radio ($13.50), $7 or $8.50 / day was left or:
$2 for a hotel room
$1-$1.50 for food and booze (A loaf of bread cost about $ 0.25 and a hamburger as much. After a few weeks I lowered the food ration including drink for under $1. The tap water was not always drinkable).
$2-$2.50: Club-admission and beer
$2: other (telephone, laundry, bus to/from airport, newspapers, maps and records).
Entertainment in the black ghetto was cheap. I paid $2 for a balcony ticket to the Apollo theater. You could see five different artists and sit all day until the theater closed at midnight. The entrance to the Regal theater in the afternoon also cost $2. In comparison, a cinema ticket at Times Square in New York, with two older movies, cost 85 cents.
The gospel concert in Chicago with Mahalia Jackson as a surprise guest cost $3 while the visit to Cottage Groove church cost $1.25. (Many gospel groups had to share a modest gross of circa $150).
Entry to the clubs in Chicago cost $1 (High Chaparral, Bonanza, Checkmate), while the beer cost 75 cents (and 55 cents at Checkmate). A one way El-train ticket cost 30 cents.
Weekly rentals at hotels were cheaper because sheets had not to be changed and rooms were not cleaned but once. Other tourists were not staying there. The only disturbance were tubercular coughs from room neighbours or disorder in common washrooms and toilets.
An important conclusion: by living a very frugal, almost in semi-starvation you can realize a lot of visions and dreams. This summer had been a good training.
I felt very much at home at the small American record companies.
In African-America I think that gospel music has been much more important than blues. Not only in soul music where virtually all artists had a gospel background. Many grew up with a father as a priest or mother as cantor or choir director. Those who did not sing gospel in the churches still sound as if they came from there (Ray Charles).
Soul music also expressed the optimism of the emerging black middle class in the 1960s. You could improve your life, get an education, make money, create a family.
This optimism for social change, that was so evident during the Kennedy-Johnson era in the 1960s, ended with Martin Luther King’s death.
The blues on the other hand often took up personal shortcomings in life like problems with alcohol, women and drugs. Instead it found a younger white audience that shared its values.
The golden age of soul music (1963-1968 followed the golden age of Gospel Music (circa 1945-1965).
The Afro-American culture
My US trip could have been made anytime between 1918 and 1968. Musically, it would he been equally gratifying. During this long period black music was good, exciting and interesting both on record and stage. But afterwards things declined.
1968 was a transition period. Artists took steps in the wrong direction. James Brown led the development with his funk sound. The Temptations followed with Cloud Nine and later the Isley Brothers with It’s Your Thing.
That soul music had become a popular trend among whites, left the music business no peace. Soul was now being produced directly for white listeners who fled from a pop scene where many white artists performed stoned on stage – thinking they were inspired, talented, improvising musicians.
Steve Cropper told me that he felt that soul music was facing a new era. Otis Redding’s “Dock Of The Bay” proved that Stax could make pop music without necessarily losing the soul. It was a direction Steve wanted to take. But Redding’s death stopped this. I also preferred this development before funk (or later rap) music. A good soul singer can put a lot of feeling into mediocre pop material.
Wilson Pickett proved he could sing both bubblegum pop (“Sugar, Sugar”) and rock (“Born To Be Wild” or “Hey Jude”). In the mid 1960s many fine pop-soul songs had been created in Detroit and New York.
Today show business is imbued with gay and transgender impulses. It started a long time ago. I have met some great R&B and soul artists who belonged to this scene. An afternoon at the home of Billy Wright (1978) and his gang of female impersonators and transvestites opened my eyes.
Tough R&B artists like Bobby Marchan and Billy “Prince of the Blues” Wright appeared in women’s clothing already 60-70 years ago, and certainly also Esquerita and Little Richard. Transvestites with blond wigs ruled during Apollo Amateur nights.
There are many heavy-metal white singers who are trying to sound like James Brown and Wilson Pickett. But a white singer without a gospel background often only sounds vulgar and cheap. Like a pusher outside a strip club or a street vendor of trinkets. They press their voices and they scream while a singer with a gospel background has a completely different range of expressions.
In the late 1960s there was no longer any reason to follow the current popular music – black or white. I went back in time and instead “discovered” the almost forgotten musical treasure after World War II. In that postwar era of Rhythm & Blues and Gospel, I found everything and sometimes more of what was now missing in soul music, and I released 190 LPs. But that is a completely different story.
But before soul music died, there were two more important artists coming to Sweden in early 1969 – Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett.