Monday, January 10, 2011

In search of a Back Beat back side back story

It's high time I got things started here for 2011.

One of my recent vinyl acquisitions has been the O.V. Wright’s single “Gone For Good” -  you really can’t go wrong with O.V. But, as wonderful as the A side is, it’s the B side of this single I’m featuring.

O.V. Wright and ? - How Long Baby 1966

When I first turned the 45 over and played it I got a surprise - it’s a duet, although the label credits give no clue. So the question is who is the female singer on this track? I turned to Google straightaway but came up with no answers, just a couple of other people asking the same question.

My first thought was that it could be Jeanette Williams, after all she was one of the very few female names to appear on the Back Beat label, and looking at Back Beat’s catalog her single “You Didn’t Know Then” immediately preceded the O.V. Wright 45 that is the subject of this little mystery (Back Beat 557 appears to have remained unreleased). An old comment on a Soulful Detroit forum states that Jeanette cut all her sides in Detroit though, and I have read nothing about O.V. that suggests he ever ventured to Detroit to record.

Anyway, I’m doubly glad I bought this O.V. single because it jogged my memory that I had in fact picked up a copy of Jeanette Williams’ “You Didn’t Know Then” at a car boot sale last year (for only 25p - yippee!), but silly me had only played it once and then filed it away in a box. So I was prompted to dig it out again, and now, after a few more spins, I have come to fully appreciate it.        

Jeanette Williams - You Didn't Know Then 1966 

So what do you think? I’m thinking the mystery singer is possibly not Jeanette Williams.

Over at a Southern Soul message board a while back somebody else had posed the same question about the identity of the uncredited vocalist and an answer suggested it might be Vi Campbell. I admit I had not heard of Vi before. It seems she had just one single “Seven Doors” released on Don Robey’s Peacock label. Back Beat was an affiliate of Peacock and “Seven Doors” dates to 1966, as does the O.V. Wright duet. You can read more about Don Robey and the great R&B output on his labels here, and also hear Vi Campbell’s “Seven Doors”.   
Hmm, still wondering.

I’ll offer one more suggestion. I’m far from convinced myself you understand, but it is a good excuse to hear another great record. Minnie Epperson maybe? Also released on Peacock in 1966 was Minnie Epperson’s “Nothing But The Facts”:                     

In the end facts are something that are sadly lacking regarding the identity of O.V. Wright’s vocal partner on Back Beat 558, just plenty of conjecture.

So could it be Jeanette..., or Vi..., or Minnie..., or somebody else? Who’s the baby?

UPDATE 31/01/11: It is possible I have answered my own question. A few days ago I was browsing through an old Blues & Soul magazine. Issue 158 from April 1975 to be precise. In the magazine there was an article on OV Wright written by Derek Howe, who back in '75 was "Singles Manager and Assistant in Charge of Soul Music at Manchester's HMV shop". The article was an excellent run through of OV Wright's, then, career to date. (At the end of the article Derek sent thanks to Chris Savory of Hot Buttered Soul for help with it).

In the article in the section listing Wright's Backbeat releases Derek states:
 ""Poor Boy" was followed by an excellent ballad "Gone For Good" the B side of which "How Long Baby" featured a duet with his wife (Emily?)." 
I notice a question mark appeared in the statement but appears to be merely questioning the name of the lady, that it was Wright's wife did not appear to be in doubt. At there is a comment from an old friend - Johnny Rawls - that confirms that Emily was OV's first wife's name. So perhaps the question is answered. It of course opens up another question: did Emily appear on any other recordings, either solo, or perhaps as part of a group or backing group?


george said...

Hi, just discovered your blog. And anyone who posts O V Wright must have terrific taste in music.
All the best.

Holly said...

No clues, but great post - thank you VERY much for the link to Vi Campbell!

Marc said...


I've been browsing through books,O.V.'s discography and magazines to no avail.
Maybe you could adress DJ Brett Koshkin who's conducting 'The Bayou City Soul Project'.
His mighty fine website features a beautiful flyer of the 'Bobby Blue Bland Revue' including Vi Campbell among other goodies.

Keep up the good work,

Anonymous said...

I don't know who the mystery singer, but thanks for jogging me to go relisten to this great track. O.V. was a real soul master. W.

Raggedy said...

For a moment, I was thinking it could be Kim Tolliver -- but naw, not really.
This record, however, is absolutely fantastic. O. V. at his best. Thanks, Darcy!

Anonymous said...

Red Kelly has done a lot of research on OV Wright. Maybe he has an idea.

Darcy said...

Thank you all for all the comments.
O.V. has this effect on lots of people it seems.

Marc: thanks for the pointer to Brett.

Anon: Yes thanks for reminding me that Red Kelly could be the man to answer the mystery, or at least he may well know someone who does!