Monday, April 21, 2008

Goodbye Mister C

Sooner or later it seems all good things come to an end. Last Friday after nearly 20 years, Mister C graced the WFMU airwaves for the last time. Once a month Mister C would sit in for Mr Finewine at the rare and wondrous Downtown Soulville. Now there is no debating that Mr Finewine’s show is astonishing, and essential listening for any self respecting soulhead. But over time I have come to realise that it was Mister C’s shows that really did it for me. I loved the old radio adverts with the inevitable deeeep voiceover. I loved Mister C’s old school cool DJ rhyming delivery (if you’re from the UK think laidback Rosko). But above all I was tuned in – locked in - to Mister C’s musical frequency (pops and clicks included). The records he played were consistently of the soul persuasion closest to my heart. Thanks for the great shows Mister C. I, like many others I’m sure, will miss you.

Philly and Southern were I think Mister C’s soul of choice. I was heartened to hear him play Candi Staton on his final show (“I’m Just A Prisoner”) – and of course he pronounced Stay-ton correctly, it always irks me that so few do – and was expecting him to play something from Betty Wright too, an obvious favourite of his. But in the end he didn’t. So I will.

Some time ago Mister C played “Gimme Back My Man”. The track comes from Betty Wright’s 1973 album “Hard To Stop”. That album had been on my mental (as in tucked away in a corner of my brain) wants list for over thirty years. Somehow I had never got round to buying it – but then we all have those lists I’m sure. Anyway the track blew me away and prompted me to – finally - go and buy the album (that is some hairstyle, isn’t it?). I was lucky to pick up the original album for next to nothing. If you were to cast your eye over Betty’s 45 release history you could count no less than 33 singles, and that's only up to 1979. Inexplicably “Gimme Back My Man” isn’t one of them. In 1973 Alston, like many soul music labels, were predominantly a singles label, and I can’t help thinking Henry Stone missed a trick by not releasing this as a single.

The last record (ever?) Mister C played on his WFMU show was “A Woman Needs To Be Loved” by Tyrone Davis. Another record that Mister C put on my radar some time ago. This was Davis’ first single on the Dakar label. As you can see from the label scan it started out as an A side but was soon relegated to the B side of the 1968 R&B #1 hit “Can I Change My Mind” released on the newly colourful Dakar label. “Mind” proved a template for a number of subsequent Davis singles (in that mould my favourite has to be “Is It Something You’ve Got”) but he continued to feature “deep” soul tracks on the B sides, and it’s those that I prefer. There is more than a hint of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland about Davis’ delivery on “A Woman Needs To Be Loved”. Davis is rightly recognised as one of the great soul voices, but I can’t help thinking that if he had stayed with his Deep Bluesy side, although lasting commercial success would have most probably eluded him, we would nevertheless be heralding him as a true giant. You can find "A Woman Needs To Be Loved" on this.

WFMU is quite probably the greatest independent, Internet based, radio station in the world. Show archives go back years. So although Mister C may have packed away his microphone he’s still there in the archives. Go and catch a show now (well maybe listen to the tracks posted here first).

Betty Wright – Gimme Back My Man 1973

Tyrone Davis – A Woman Needs To Be Loved 1968


The Stepfather of Soul said...

I join you in mourning the end of Mr. C's show on WFMU. No one can bring that old-school R&B jock style to freeform radio like he does.

themusicologist said...

thank you for adding themusicologist to your 'list'

never heard of MR C or WFMU but do know, (and 'love'), this Tyrone Davis piece...

Soul at it's finest.