Sunday, January 28, 2007

Freeman, Hardy & Willis

Wow! Two weeks since my last post. I have been engulfed by a mid-winter torpor. Getting home from work all I have felt like doing is reading the paper, vegetating in front of the TV and going to bed early (well, before midnight at any rate, which is early for me). I have managed to turn the computer on a few times but even blog hopping has seemed like a chore. As for actually compiling a post – no chance.
It seems that this was always on the cards, at least for those of us living in more northerly latitudes. Hopefully I’m back in the groove now.

As a relatively long time has passed since my last post it’s worth reminding you that this is the second in a short series of posts with titles taken from names of shops past and present in the British high street. Why? Why not - I like tenuous links, and it’s a bit of fun.

Today’s track is from Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr. As a group name it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue does it? What has it got to do with Freeman, Hardy & Willis I hear you ask?
On a forum somewhere (possibly Soul Source) sometime ago I remember somebody referring to the group J, H, T & D as Freeman, Hardy & Willis. That made me chuckle.
And who or what is/was Freeman, Hardy & Willis? For those of you not familiar with the British high street of yesteryear Freeman, Hardy & Willis were one of the first shop chains, selling shoes. A common sight in the 70s, I believe they originated as a boot and shoe manufacturer in Leicester in the 19th century. I thought they had completely disappeared but a quick trawl of the interweb threw up a few listings of what appear to be currently trading shops dotted around the UK.

That’s it, as I said a tenuous link. But when you are casting around for witty or punchy (or just plain daft!) blog post titles such a tenuous link is like gold dust.

I bought this 45 blind a few years ago for next to nothing. The Capsoul label attracted me. I already had another Capsoul 45 in my collection acquired many years ago and again bought blind. That record didn’t disappoint and neither does this one from J, H , T & D.

“You Can’t Blame Me” is a great soul record. The intro is both eerie and wistful at the same time. Throughout there is quite a lot going on in the arrangement – vibes; guitar; listen carefully and there some strings too buried in the mix; Virgil Johnson’s strident falsetto barely stays under control and there are some sublime backing vocals from the rest of the guys. It’s a brave record, I think the arrangement is complicated and sophisticated but at the same time it has the distinct feel of being home made, which, in a way, it was. Recently just about the entire Capsoul output was documented and immortalised on "Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label". The label was evidently put together and operated on a shoestring and featured local artists form the Columbus, Ohio area. Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, & Durr had just two releases on the label and then split, but if only for “You Can’t Blame Me”, their name, however awkward, will live on with this soul music fan at least.

I will feature the other Capsoul record in my collection in my next post. Those with a knowledge of both the British high street and the Capsoul label could probably hazard a guess as to the title of the next post.

Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr - You Can’t Blame Me 1971


el carg said...

found your site via the closing of the Number One Songs In Heaven. It's a great sign that your music today is Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr -- the name of my NBA fantasy team.

Nice site, I'll be back.

Rob Whatman said...

I remember being dragged around Freeman Hardy & Willis many a time by my mum, while she tried on shoe after shoe...
... but it was always worth it, because then we got to go to Clarkes, home of the desert boot, and I was allowed to put my foot in the little x-ray machine to see how far my toes reached!

Darcy said...

el carg: That's a fairly off the wall title for an NBA fantasy team! Are you from Columbus? did you know or see the group perform by any chance?