Tamla T 54030 (A), September 1960
Alabama blues man Singin’ Sammy Ward’s Motown début was meant to be the pop-tinged What Makes You Love Him, which was notably softer and less raucous than Ward’s usual repertoire. Allowed to cut loose on the screaming B-side That Child Is Really Wild, he did enough to persuade Berry Gordy to drop the original choice of A-side and make a last-minute switch to this more engaging number instead.
And so it came to pass that Singin’ Sammy Ward ended up scoring an unlikely, obscure, but hugely well-deserved Top 30 R&B hit – only Motown’s fourth entry on any chart, at a time when this song’s co-writer Smokey Robinson was struggling to make any kind of commercial impact, and while Barrett Strong was missing the charts with predictable regularity.
It’s a good record, too, the best of Ward’s three Motown sides thus far; a punchy, prowling, midtempo blues with a sly, tough lead vocal delivered almost perfectly by Singin’ Sammy, who turns in a throatier, looser performance than on What Makes You Love Him. He’s one star of the record; the other is a ballsy, soaring blues guitar solo at 1:14 (infuriatingly not credited to any particular Funk Brother) which sounds so modern it could have been recorded last week and nobody would bat an eyelid.
There’s a weird noise at 1:22, just after the Unknown Guitarist hits the higher end of the scale for the first time, which sounds like a whooping live audience in the distance, and which briefly makes you wish this was a live recording, because it’s exactly the kind of song which would have fed off the energy of a pumped-up crowd.
Ward’s achievement in scoring an important early Motown hit record seems to have been largely overlooked by history, so I’m going to put one in the “win” column for him here and now. Well done, Singin’ Sammy.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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|Singin’ Sammy Ward
“That Child Is Really Wild”