b/w I Want My Share
(Written by Clarence Paul, George Byrd and Willie Jenkins)
Okay, so, here’s where things get a little complicated.
Here’s what I think I know, mainly from the Internet (and in particular the research of our very own Robb Klein over at Soulful Detroit). “Bouncing” Cornell Blakely, a Detroit gospel/R&B singer and later bandleader and DJ, had formed an association with songwriter James Hendrix in the late Fifties. Blakely had cut a few of Hendrix’ songs (and some of his own material too) for boutique labels like Fulton and Carrie before the pair of them crossed paths with Berry Gordy and Motown, as anyone on the Detroit scene was eventually bound to do, at the turn of the decade.
At this time, Berry was probably making more money – and earning more of a reputation – from his writing and producing duties for Marv Johnson and Eddie Holland over on United Artists, rather than the records coming out on his own label, and so he didn’t balk when Hendrix proposed his protégé cut some stuff at Hitsville.
Much as Gordy might have liked to sign Blakely to Motown, Hendrix was effectively Blakely’s manager and wasn’t willing to sign away ownership of Blakely’s recordings; no problem, Blakely could record at Motown, Gordy would produce, Gordy would provide the musicians, Hendrix would find a label to release the recordings, Gordy would take a 50% cut of any profits.
So it came to pass that Rich Records, a small label out of Nashville, Tennessee, released a number of Blakely’s Hitsville cuts – including songs written by Brian Holland, Robert Bateman, Freddie Gorman, Mickey Stevenson and Gordy himself – before going out of business in early 1963. But Blakely had already cut another couple of sides at Motown, lined up ready for release when Rich Records ceased to exist.
Faced with a choice between hawking the recordings around other labels (probably not worth the trouble for Gordy at this point in history, with Motown now racking up hit records), canning them (an atrocious waste), or releasing them as part of the main Motown line (unpalatable for Gordy as Hendrix part-owned the masters), Gordy and Hendrix instead came up with a jolly ruse: they would set up their own “Rich Records” label, a pretend continuation of the now-defunct Tennessee company, and – hoping nobody would notice what was going on – use that new label to release Blakely’s record.
And so, here we have a Motown record in everything but name: recorded at Hitsville, co-written by a Motown writer, produced by a Motown producer, played by Motown musicians, published by Jobete, and on a label co-owned by Motown. That “co-owned” is the reason this was left off The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 3, and also the reason it’s almost certainly appearing here on Motown Junkies somewhat out of order. All indications are that this came out in the spring of 1963 – probably in March or April – but I’m only getting around to covering it now because I’ve only just obtained a copy of the record.
So. The record. What’s it like? First things first: it’s really good fun, a breath of fresh air. “Bouncing” Cornell turns out to have been aptly-named: this is a jaunty, bluesy romp that veritably bounces along for almost three minutes. No big changes, no surprises, just fun.
This must have been recorded in late ’62, because the backing singers on this are very obviously and audibly Martha and the Vandellas, and they sound wonderful, alternating between a shrill gospel delivery of the title in the chorus and some softly cooing oooohs in the verses. (It actually reminds me, a little bit, of Phil Spector’s infamous “fake” Crystals single, (Let’s Dance) The Screw, in a strange sort of way, though it’s much bluesier, and the drums here sound great.)
Actually, this whole thing sounds great. I wish I had a clear, crackle-free, hiss-free remastered version of it, but you can definitely hear a fine record shining through under the artefacts. Blakely’s deep but shaky baritone is oddly attractive, but he doesn’t have much to do in terms of carrying the tune as the Vandellas are (cleverly) made to do most of the heavy lifting. This frees Blakely to concentrate on giving a charismatic performance, which he carries off with gusto.
Probably too simple and straight-down-the-line to really make a splash, and probably dated even by the standards of early 1963 when it most likely appeared (never mind late 1963, when Motown stood on the cusp of a whole new era), it’s nonetheless a terrific little blues-pop record. A real pity this couldn’t have been included on The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 3; it certainly merited a place, and Blakely deserved to be remembered for his minor but undeniable contribution to the Motown story.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
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“I Want My Share”
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