Monday, July 25, 2011

Singles, 45's And Under: Wilson Pickett-"A Man And A Half"

When it came to singles, I was the only one in the house that had a record player. It was a hand me down, a small portable player that could be hauled around at a moment’s notice.

It had a single speaker, a volume and tone knob.

That’s it.

It wasn’t until I started working at the swimming pool before I made enough money to buy a true component system, one that could qualify as “high in fidelity.”

I’m sorry Spanky, I had to live my own life.

My records were also hand me downs, and occasionally, my single collection would grow by huge leaps. I wasn’t sure how the records showed up, I only knew my carrying case got a little tighter inside.

I remember once that I noticed that there was a bunch of Motown and Tamla records that showed up. Previously, I only had a few Motown records, but then there were a bunch more along with a new label that I’d never seen: Tamla.

It was like someone injected a bunch of motor city soul into my music palate, just for discovery.

There was no mention of it, and I kept my mouth shut for fear that they’d disappear just as soon as they came.

One day, I noticed a bunch of Atlantic records had found their way into the record case. Now I recognized Atlantic; I had Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and played it often. I even had a pair of Yes singles, believe it or not.

In short, I was familiar with the rock roster of Atlantic.

That changed with the new titles I found with the label, the singles featured songs by such names as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and a guy by the name of Wilson Pickett.

I liked Wilson the most, particularly the track “A Man And A Half.” It was raw, as were most of the newly discovered tracks.

Again, I have no idea where they came from. It was obvious they weren’t from my parent’s stash as they pretty much switched to 8-track after I was born, placing the unit and tapes well out of reach.

I do remember one of my first memories around the age of three. Like most 3-year olds, I didn’t want to go to bed when it got dark. One night, a bunch of youngsters came over to visit and I was ushered off to bed.

Most of them had longer hair-it was hard to tell the difference between the girls and the boys.

I was intrigued.

A couple of times I simply marched downstairs in an attempt to use a bit of charm to buy a few extra minutes.

I was marched back upstairs.

I quietly made my way back to the top of the stairs and found my best strategy was just to remain silent and watch the group between the banisters.

For some reason, I think that my additions must have come from those teenagers. A quick note of the single itself shows a telling drill mark. I’m guessing that this means it’s either a promotional copy, or a cut out.

I would have lived in Shenandoah, Iowa at this time-the hometown of The Everly Brothers-and this would have been my dad’s first teaching gig. It’s plausible that, given the extremely white population, soul singles may have found their way onto the bargain bins.

I loved that little swirly thing at the bottom of the big “A.” But now, even more, I love how it was recorded at Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Note to self: I’ve got to make that and Sun Studios in Memphis a family trip destination.

And a swing through Muscle Shoals, too.

Pickett was born in Alabama, but he moved to Detroit before he started out in music. The street corners and churches gave him the pastoral grit that he’s known for.

Forty odd years later, I still don’t know who to thank for sneaking him into my record case.

Check out his badassed self here:

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