Posts Tagged ‘Soul’

“Wheedle’s Groove” – 3 1/2 Stars – Rolling Stone!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Big news this week for Wheedle’s Groove! Run out and pick up the March 31, 2011 (#1132) issue of Rolling Stone–yeah, the one with Howard Stern on the cover–and flip as quickly as possible to page 68. Whoop there it is! Barry Walters calls Wheedle’s Groove an “exceptionally good-looking doc” in which “the real stars are the unsung heroes who now live as ordinary folk but were once superfly kings of the ghetto.” Congrats to filmmaker Jennifer Maas and all of the musicians that made this film what it is.

Label Spotlight: Paradise of Bachelors & their amazing exploration of Carolinian Soul/Funk

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Paradise of Bachelors, the North Carolina-based label curated and run by Brendan Greaves and Jason Perlmutter, is new to the block but with their first release, Said I Had A Vision: Songs & Labels of David Lee, 1960-1988, they come off like seasoned pros. Said I Had A Vision collects the work of legendary Shelby, North Carolina jack-of-all-trades David Lee and everything about this release from the excellently curated track listing to the exhaustive liner notes makes this essential for fans of Soul, Funk, Gospel, and Northern Soul.

Recently we chatted with Brendan and Jason about their label, the recently released Said I Had A Vision anthology, and the rich musical history of the Carolinas. Awesomeness ensued.

OK, a few questions right off the bat: Tell us about Paradise of Bachelors? What inspired you to start the label? And lastly, how did you discover David Lee’s music and what made you want to release his work?

David Lee among his corn (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

BRENDAN: The origin of Paradise of Bachelors resides in the story of how we met David Lee and in turn, each other, so these two questions are best answered together.  In 2008, I had just completed my graduate degree in folklore, and I had a gig conducting field research on the musical history of Cleveland County, North Carolina for the Earl Scruggs Center and Don Gibson Theater in Shelby. Those facilities named for Cleveland County’s native sons give you a sense of how rich the musical traditions are in those North/South Carolina borderlands west of Charlotte. A local musician named Ray Harper—close friend and sideman to Marvin Gaye and college roommate and bandmate of Maceo Parker and Jesse Jackson—referred me to Mr. Lee, about whom I knew nothing other than what Mr. Harper told me, that he used to own a record store in Shelby called Washington Sound as well as three independent record labels.

I interviewed David, and I found the untold story of his career fascinating. During our conversation, he made a confusing comment about how we had already spoken on the phone months earlier, which was not the case. It turned out that Jason had independently contacted Mr. Lee to inquire about the 45s he had released on his Impel, Washington Sound, and SCOP labels, and David had reasonably assumed we were the same person—it was simpler to believe that there was just one youngish white guy from the Chapel Hill/Durham area suddenly curious about his music, not two separate people. I was aware of Jason’s work as a DJ, record collector, and historian of Carolina soul music—his website,, is a wonderful resource—and we had friends in common, but we had never met. David Lee brought us together, and the natural decision to found a label to reissue his life’s work followed soon thereafter. We both continue to speak to David on a weekly basis, and cultivating our friendship with him and his family, catalyzing some long overdue recognition for his career, and providing occasions for him to perform again after a decades-long hiatus have been the most rewarding results of the project.

Jason and Brendan with David Lee, in the center proudly displaying his North Carolina Folklore Society’s Brown-Hudson Award

As soul, gospel, and country music fans, David’s music attracted us for aesthetic reasons, because he is a compelling writer and sensitive producer. But Jason and I find the cultural contexts of his work equally significant, and that narrative was important to us—we had an opportunity, a responsibility, to tell the tale of one man’s life in music, and we wanted to do it right.  As a record label and record shop owner, David belongs to a proud tradition of African American music entrepreneurs and businesspeople who thrived in communities across the South during the 1960s and 1970s, both during the Jim Crow era and in its equally stormy aftermath.

David Lee with the original Washington Sound record shop sign. (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

The former Washington Sound on Buffalo Street in Shelby. David Lee ran his record shop in this building from the early 1970s through 1995. (Photo by Jason Perlmutter)

As proprietor of Washington Sound, Shelby’s premiere source for African American popular music, and in his role as record label owner, he helped not only to advance the agenda of African American businesses in North Carolina, but likewise to disseminate both local and national soul and gospel recordings that articulated the enjoined personal and political concerns of African Americans. The regional focus of his production work and independent releases—all of the artists hail from within about a seventy mile radius—underscores the significance of African American vernacular music not only to the national discourse of the Civil Rights movement, but likewise to its specific regional iterations. Impel, Washington Sound, and SCOP both documented and defined the expressive sound of Piedmont North Carolina. Mr. Lee’s collaboration with teenage interracial (or “salt and pepper”) band the Constellations, his recording of white lounge singer Bill Allen with the African American group the Masters of Soul, and his own self-identification as a country music songwriter, singer, and stylist demonstrate his persistent commitment to implementing his position as an artist and community leader to nudge tense racial relations towards acceptance and the integration of working musicians and audiences. David digs Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Charley Pride, and Bill Monroe as much as he does Otis Redding and James Brown, and that’s something that upends our normative and naïve American notions of culture and taste—I find that really interesting. He persevered despite criticism of his countrified tastes by the African American community, much as the Constellations persevered despite criticism and hostility from some white audiences.

The Constellations circa early 60's (with the Prom Queen!) (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

From the outset, we’ve broadly defined Paradise of Bachelors as a label, a soundsystem, and an archive dedicated to documenting, curating, and releasing under-recognized musics of the American vernacular, with an emphasis on the South. So in addition to making records, we are also engaged in DJing, music and folklife consultation, research and writing. Records represent our primary vehicle for producing artifacts, and for us, vinyl is the most sensible way to do that. Music is mechanically and physically encoded in vinyl, so the data is physical. That’s conceptually appealing, but so is the idea that, when the impending digital apocalypse renders much contemporary audio media obsolete, enterprising folks can still build a record player with a wheel, a needle, and a horn. But ultimately, we hope that our work can have impacts beyond the production and dissemination of more stuff, more records, and we’re proud to have been able to work with Mr. Lee to allow him to pursue a second career later in life.

Tell us about Said I Had A Vision, your anthology of David Lee’s releases.

JASON: This 14-track album covers the highlights of David Lee’s forays into songwriting, production, and performance, which spanned nearly 40 years, all the while based out of the Shelby, North Carolina area, and which led him to explore soul, funk, r&b, gospel, lounge, and country music. These efforts began in the late 1950s, when Mr. Lee made his first recording of his own voice, accompanied by piano and drums, and shopped it around to multiple publishers across the Southeast. This autobiographical song “I’m Going to Keep on Trying” ambiguously addressed both romantic heartbreak and repeated rejections from the music industry. In 1961 or 1962, the tune was finally picked up by publishing company Active and received broad regional airplay courtesy of the Air record label out of Miami, Florida. Mr. Lee had only intended the bare-bones track as a demo and was disappointed with the showing. Within the next year or so, “Keep on Trying” would be re-recorded by a proper singing group and full band, the Ambassadors of Shelby, and released on Air. Although neither of these recordings is represented on Said I Had a Vision—we actually haven’t ever come across David’s demo, and we chose to focus on the output of David’s own labels, they are worthy of mention for they mark the beginning of his ventures in music production.

Over the next several years, up until the mid-1960s, Mr. Lee launched his own record company with three different releases by the Constellations, a local group who had positioned themselves as rivals to the Ambassadors and who are represented on Said I Had a Vision by two different selections. One of them, Mr. Lee’s stately and airy romantic dialogue “If Everybody,” graced the A-side of their first 45 on his new Impel imprint and would become one of the most enduring numbers in his catalog. After the Constellations were split up by the Vietnam War, Mr. Lee found himself with no flagship artist, and he began offering his songwriting and production services to artists outside of Cleveland County. In 1968 or 1969, his collaboration with the Yakety Yaks of Spartanburg, South Carolina yielded “Soul Night,” and this funk tune became the debut record on his new label Washington Sound, named for the shop and the theme song for radio advertisements that promoted his business. More than four decades later, we have positioned it as the opening track on our retrospective album.

Sample of the liner notes for "Said I Had A Vision"

Yakety Yaks “Soul Night” (YouTube clip)

Mr. Lee’s next collaboration would net the greatest commercial success of his career. In 1971, he met Ann Sexton, a young vocalist who fronted the Masters of Soul band of Greenville, South Carolina. Sexton’s recording of a new David Lee demo entitled “You’re Letting Me Down” came out briefly on Impel (we’ve compiled both this track and the B-side “You’ve Been Gone Too Long,” which is favored on the Northern soul scene). The mournful ballad quickly captured the attention of legendary disc jockey “John R.” Richbourg of radio station WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee. Richbourg re-released the 45 on his nationally-distributed label Seventy-Seven Records and sold around 90,000 copies.

Candid photo of Ann Sexton by David Lee. (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

Ann Sexton “You’re Letting Me Down” (YouTube clip)

Moving forward, Mr. Lee’s royalties from the Sexton material allowed him to fund several subsequent releases, including lounge material by Bill Allen, sweet soul and funk by Brown Sugar Inc., and his first gospel productions. These were performed by the Gospel I.Q.’s of Grover, North Carolina, the Relations Gospel Singers, who cut their record live at Mice Creek Baptist Church, near Gaffney, South Carolina, the Sensational Gates of Shelby, and Joe Brown and the Singing Mellerairs, with whom Mr. Lee had one of his longest working relationships. In the 1980s, Mr. Lee founded a third label, SCOP, which is an acronym for “Soul, Country, Opera, and Pop,” and put out two more 45s, one by the Singing Mellerairs, entitled “Vision” (the lyrical source of our compilation title) and one of his own, which closes the album. All of the artists that I’ve just mentioned were an important part of David’s career, and you can hear selections from each on the album.

Gospel I.Q. (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

Tell us about the remastering process. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes?

JASON: Our source material for the album was exclusively vinyl. We remastered from original 45s on David’s Impel, SCOP, and Washington Sound labels. Back in the day, due to the high cost of purchasing the master tapes from the recording studios where he produced his records, David usually left them behind, and he surmises that they were taped over or discarded through the years. Thankfully he held onto vinyl copies of a few of the releases in his catalog, and we used these to supplement the ones that I had collected myself. Between his and mine, we had copies of sufficient sound quality for every track on the album. After transferring the songs to a digital format, minimal restoration work was needed. What you hear is essentially how the records were intended to be played, and we are quite happy with the fidelity.

Joe Brown & the Singing Mellerairs (Photo courtesy of Paradise of Bachelors)

What are you currently listening to?

BRENDAN: Here’s a list, in order of appearance, from an arbitrary eight inches of my shelf of records currently in rotation: Blue Jug, Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes, Gary Stewart, Sedatrius Brown, Mickey Jupp’s Legend, Savage Rose, Ronnie Lane, Cornell Campbell, Augie Meyers, Dennis Linde, Uncle Dog, Johnny Paycheck, Terry Allen, Michael Nesmith, Bonnie Koloc, Robert Pete Williams, Stoney Edwards, Thulebasen, Bob Seger, The Hammons Family, Swamp Dogg, Jessie Ed Davis, Early B, Magic Sam, Arik Einstein/Shalom Chanoch, Kevin Coyne, Tim Hardin, Santo and Johnny, Danielle Dax, David Allan Coe, Python Lee Jackson, Secos & Molhados, Horseback, and Hiss Golden Messenger. You’ll probably notice that Jason and I are listening to very different things, which keeps our partnership interesting.

JASON: Because my collecting efforts focus on 45s—in particular soul, funk, gospel, and privately-pressed oddities of various genres—they make up the bulk of my home listening. Rather than bore you with the details of the ones that I’m most into at the moment, I’ll throw out there that when I’m in the car, which is often, I usually tune in to these central North Carolina radio stations: Foxy 107/104 for classic soul and neo-soul, and K 97.5 and 102 Jamz for hip-hop and r&b. Back at home, I’ve also been making my way through a stack of LPs given to me by a man I recently met on an airplane. These include Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On a personal favorite that I only ever had on CD, some James Brown live albums, and a few New Age selections.

What are you working on next?

BRENDAN: We are excited to have recently begun working with Jason’s neighbor Willie French Lowery, who is a remarkable songwriter, singer, and guitarist who led psych bands Plant & See and Lumbee in the late 60’s to mid 70s. He also recorded quieter, more country-inflected solo work that deals with his identity as a Lumbee Indian and that community’s history and culture. We are collaborating with Willie and his wife Malinda Maynor Lowery to release some unheard live and studio material as well as some of his better-known work in the fall. Willie is a legend—he was Clyde McPhatter’s tour manager and toured with the Allman Brothers!

Lumbee “You Gotta Be Stoned” (YouTube clip)

Future projects may involve more soul and gospel rarities for sure, but also possibly, coastal country, Christian folk, and even some Communist disco (yes, it exists!), at this point all with roots in the Carolinas, largely because it makes it easier to access the musicians directly if they live within driving distance. We’re interested in releasing music, historical or futuristic or otherwise, with contemporary relevance and resonance—the music’s obscurity matters far less than strong curatorial and aesthetic coherence, compelling narratives, and our ability to articulate those narratives through engagement with the artists, through interviews, oral histories, photography, etc. Genre and taste are specious concepts, I reckon. Context is key. Write us if you have an idea for a record!


For more audio samples and to order Said I Had A Vision: Songs & Labels of David Lee, 1960-1988 click HERE!


Interview by LITA’s blog scribe Patrick McCarthy. Thanks to Brendan and Jason for their time and wonderful insights. Special thanks to LITA’s co-captain and distro maven Josh Wright for setting up the interview.

V/A “Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-1973″ PRE-ORDER

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

It’s almost too much to believe…a project years in the making and there’s less than two weeks before it’s released unto the world. That’s right, on June 14, 2011, Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-1973, the first ever anthology of Motown’s funk/hippie/rock label Mowest, will finally be released! Can’t wait to get dibs on a copy? Well, you may pre-0rder the CD and the 2x LP NOW!

Here’s the back story: in the early 1970’s, Detroit-native and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. brought his musical family to the left coast, one piece at a time. He began by launching the Mowest subsidiary in 1971, a new L.A.-based label dedicated to coastal grooves and an eye towards the top of the charts.

"Mowest" LP - Check the gloss!

Regardless of talent, quality, and financial backing, Mowest faced an uphill battle. With the majority of Motown’s focus on the already established names of Stevie WonderMarvin GayeDiana Ross,Smokey RobinsonThe Temptations, and their latest chart dynamos, The Jackson 5, there wasn’t as much attention being given to the diverse Mowest roster. Acts like SyreetaSisters Love, and G.C. Cameron seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Though the label released over forty singles and close to a dozen albums from up and comers like Odyssey to established veterans Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons the expected hits never materialized and the imprint quietly folded in 1973. While Mowest artists The CommodoresThelma Houston, and the aforementioned Cameron continued on with Motown proper, the sub label’s catalogue quickly gathered dust in the cut-out bins of record stores throughout the States.

"Mowest" CD - No skimping on this!

Forty years later, it’s time for the rest of the world to rediscover what a treasure trove of soulful sounds Mowest left behind. Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love is a lovingly prepared 16-track CD, 2 LP set with epic re-mastering from the original master tapes by engineer Dave Cooley (Blue Note, Warp, Stones Throw, Now Again), extensive liner notes from project curator Kevin “Sipreano” Howes (Jamaica-Toronto series, Doug Randle, Rodriguez, Monks), and Strath Shepard’s (Pacific Standard) impeccable graphic design. This is a slice of Motown like you’ve never heard or seen before.


Pre-order Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-1973 (LITA 064 | CD, 2x LP) now from

“Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love” in The Wire!

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Oh yeah, just two more days until our latest release, Our Live Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story 1971-1973, drops! We’ve got some special announcements this week, so be sure to check the blog out daily. For now, run out and pick up the June (#328 with Battles on the cover) issue of The Wire for an excellent review of the anthology:

“[...] an Apollonian synthesis of Soul and Funk, with a dusting of West Coast rock. [...] exquisitely compiled.”
Mark Fisher, The Wire

Happy Father’s Day!

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

This goes out to all the fathers, past, present, and future! As for us future dads, let’s hope we never have to tell the kinds of stories in the song below. Preach it Swamp Dogg!

More Ace Detroit Soul from Timmion – O.C. Tolbert!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Another essential Detroit soul release from the fine folks at Timmion! Exploring the vast catalogue of ace producer Dave Hamilton, this series started with the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks LP Deep Shadows by Little Ann. The story continues with this release by O.C. Tolbert. You Got Me Turned Around, which includes select tracks that are appearing on vinyl for the first time. And oh darlin’, the tracks on here are DEEP - “You Got me Turned Around”, “I’m Shooting High”, “All I want is you” , the list goes on!

For audio samples and to order O.C. Tolbert You Got Me Turned Around, click HERE!

Wendy Rene “After Laughter Comes Tears” Anthology OUT TODAY!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Here it is! Out today – Wendy Rene After Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax & Volt Singles + Rarities 1964-1965 (LITA 080 – CD | 2xLP | Digital). Collecting for the first time ever all of Wendy Rene’s recorded output (including two songs never before heard!), After Laughter is an essential document of this Memphis Southern soul legend. Spanning her earliest recordings with The Drapels to her final sessions in ’65, this anthology includes her most well-known songs “After Laugher” (as sampled by Wu-Tang Clan on 36 Chambers and featuring Booker T. Jones), “Bar-B-Q” (co-written with and featuring Steve Cropper) in addition to never before heard greasy jams like “I Wish I Were That Girl” and “He Hasn’t Failed Me Yet.”

Both the CD and 2xLP versions feature book-deep liner notes interviewing Wendy Rene by Memphian Andria Lisle (who also penned notes for our Jim Sullivan, Lou Bond, and Charles ‘Packy’ Axton releases), with many rare photos provided by Wendy Rene, unseen shots of original tape boxes, and original 45 labels. And what else? 2xLP housed in an extra thick Stoughton “Tip-On” gatefold jacket with a gloss so shiny you’ll need shades to keep from going blind. And for all you heads out there, we couldn’t resist cribbing the Volt logo for the CD/LP labels…smooth!

For the full visual/audio scoop, check out the “What’s Inside?” videos below and hop on over here to pick up your copy today!

Record Store Day 2012 – Lee Hazlewood “The LHI Years” 2xLP & Stax 10x 45 Box Set

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

We’ll bet all of you were starting to wonder, “hey, what’s Light In The Attic got up their sleeve for Record Store Day?”. Well, no more sleepless nights tossing and turning in constant anticipation…here’s a sneak peek at our Record Store Day 2012 (April 21) releases. Stay tuned next week for in-depth info about each release plus those snazzy “What’s Inside?” videos showing off these two glorious sets. But for now, let’s just say that we are very, very, very excited to share these with you all.

Lee Hazlewood – The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, & Backsides (1968-71) (LITA 084)

  • Cuts from essential albums like Cowboy In Sweden and features duets with Suzi Jane Hokom, Ann-Margret and Nina Lizell
  • Audio re-mastered from original tapes
  • Unreleased song “I Just Learned To Run”
  • In-depth liner notes & unseen photographs
  • 50 random LP copies include a limited LHI Records patch!!!!

With his handlebar moustache and booming baritone, Lee Hazlewood was one of the defining stars of the late ‘60s. Though he’s perhaps best known for his work with Nancy Sinatra (including writing mega-hit “These Boots Are Made For Walking”), Hazlewood did stunning work away from that particular glamour queen and found latter day champions in Beck, Sonic Youth, and Jarvis Cocker. Now, for Record Store Day 2012, we are kicking off our excavation of the Lee Hazlewood archives with this anthology, Singles, Nudes & Backsides, collecting the best of Lee’s solo songs and duets from his LHI (Lee Hazlewood Industries) imprint. 2xLP housed in a deluxe gatefold Stoughton “tip-on” jacket, includes 8-page book-deep liner notes and OBI card. CD version available 4/25. Wonder what’s behind that OBI card? Guess you’ll have to wait to see…

v/A Never To Be Forgotten – The Flip Side of Stax 1968-1974 (LITA 085)

  • Only 4,000 hand-numbered copies worldwide
  • *Fifteen* random copies include autographed photos
  • Meticulously remastered from the original tapes
  • Ten 45rpm singles featuring original label and sleeve art and housed in a gorgeous custom made magnetic flip-top box
  • Extensive 84-page bound booklet brimming with informative interviews with the surviving musicians contained within and liner notes by Memphis writer Andria Lisle, candid photographs, and personal anecdotes from Stax enthusiasts and label veterans Stewart, co-owner Al Bell, and promotions manager Phillip Rauls.
  • Includes Download Card for full free download of set

Never To Be Forgotten: The Flip Side Of Stax 1968-1974 is our love letter to some of the lesser-known Stax Records artists, collected and presented in a knock-out 7” vinyl box set. Containing 10 faithfully reproduced 45-rpm singles from Mable John, Bernie Hayes, Lee Sain, Melvin Van Peebles, Roy Lee Johnson & The Villagers, and John Gary Williams, in addition to label stalwarts Johnnie Taylor, Mad Lads, Emotions, and Rufus Thomas, prepare to move, groove, and be enthused. Never To Be Forgotten comes housed in a beautiful flip-top container case replete with an extensive 84-page bounded booklet brimming with informative interviews with the surviving musicians contained within and liner notes by Memphis writer Andria Lisle, candid photographs, and personal anecdotes from Stax enthusiasts and label veterans Stewart, co-owner Al Bell, and promotions manager Phillip Rauls. Plus, a free Download Card for those turntable-less moments. If you loved the Wheedle’s Groove box set, than you will flip for this one.

Betty Davis is Back In Print!

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Betty Davis‘ first two albums are back in print! After one cold hard year off the shelves, the queen of funk is back! One can hardly imagine the genre-busting, culture-crossing musical magic of Outkast, Prince, Erykah Badu, Rick James, The Roots, or even the early Red Hot Chili Peppers without the influence of R&B pioneer Betty Davis. Her style of raw and revelatory punk-funk defies any notions that women can’t be visionaries in the worlds of rock and pop.

In 1973, Davis would finally kick off her cosmic career with an amazingly progressive hard funk and sweet soul self-titled debut. Davis showcased her fiercely unique talent and features such gems as “If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up” and “Game Is My Middle Name.” The album Betty Davis was recorded with Sly & The Family Stone’s rhythm section, sharply produced by Sly Stone drummer Greg Errico, and featured backing vocals from Sylvester and the Pointer Sisters.

Her 1974 sophomore album They Say I’m Different features a worthy-of-framing futuristic cover challenging David Bowie’s science fiction funk with real rocking soul-fire, kicked off with the savagely sexual “Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him” (later sampled by Ice Cube). Her follow up is full of classic cuts like “Don’t Call Her No Tramp” and the hilarious, hard, deep funk of “He Was A Big Freak.”

Pick up your copy of Betty DavisBetty Davis & They Say I’m Different now from! Both available on CD & LP!

John Gary Williams | “I See Hope” | Documentary

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013


Back in the summer of 2010, we flew out to Memphis to embark on a project that’s still unfolding as we type this. The trip was coined ‘Soul University’ by our friend John Hubbell, who has spent the past 6 years working on a feature length documentary about Southern soul giant John Gary Williams, one of the key voices of legendary Stax vocal group The Mad Lads. From ’64 to ’72, The Mad Lads expertly combined sweet soul, doo-wop and eventually a little bit of psych. Hubbell, along with John Gary, invited a number of us to Memphis to sow the seeds for what’s shaping up to be a brilliant doc entitled I See Hope.


That 2010 Memphis trip was a life-changing experience for all of us. John Gary immediately opened his heart (and his memory bank), taking us around to his old haunts – some positive and others intensely harrowing. John Gary’s story is incredibly moving, one of those larger than life stories that was made for the big screen.

mad-lads-courtesy of Stax Museum

*Photo courtesy of Stax Museum

While The Mad Lads were riding high on the charts, he was drafted into Vietnam and eventually returned years later to rejoin The Mad Lads. But his newly discovered political consciousness also led him to The Invaders, a Memphis offshoot of the Black Power Movement. In August ’68, John was involved in a shooting which he tried to stop. He took the rap and went to jail. Upon returning, he cut a powerful self-titled solo LP in ’73 for Stax imprint Truth. The album included one of our favorite all-time soul tunes, “The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy,” and “I See Hope,” from which the new documentary takes its name.

JohnGaryWilliams_0031-courtesy of John Gary Williams

*Photo courtesy of John Gary Williams

Stax was in a slew of problems, causing the album to go largely unnoticed. His music career fizzled. For a time, John Gary moved out to Los Angeles and worked as a cab driver. Then he moved to Iowa to work at a meat packing plant. Then years later the world finally started catching up to his musical genius. That’s a tiny thumbnail of John Gary’s life. The doc I See Hope is hoping to get his story told and give the man another chance.

The film team have put together a Kickstarter page in hopes of raising funds and awareness about the project. Please take a look!

All of this reminds us: we’ve gotta get back to Memphis. We’re currently missing so many things from that epic 2010 visit like that BBQ pork sandwich from Payne’s, stories from Robert Gordon, Gus’s Fried Chicken, the wonderful Deanie Parker & Tim Sampson, and the greatest tour guides on planet earth: Andria Lisle & Scott Bomar. Why don’t we live in Memphis?!?!


Below is as the Kickstarter trailer for I See Hope, as well as a few of our favorite tunes from The Mad Lads and John Gary’s ’73 solo LP.

The Mad Lads – “Don’t Have To Shop Around”

The Mad Lads – “Gone! The Promises of Yesterday”

John Gary Williams – “The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy”