I have bought virtually no vinyl for a few weeks now. The charity shops and the car boots are dry and it seems everything that take my fancy on-line is out of my price range. I was casting around on the ‘net the other evening for a fresh fix of soul 45s when I came across an Oscar Weathers 45. I put it on my watch list. Then I thought – do I already have it? Checked the T-Z box and, yes, I do! Shame on me for letting it lie in the box unplayed, for a good few years now too in all probability. Now there’s an idea – why don’t I go rummaging around in my boxes and play some soul I already own? Radical!
I can find hardly any info on Oscar Weathers. He has his page on Deep Soul Heaven, but even the good Sir cannot really offer any info on the man himself. I found a very old thread (1999, that’s really is old in Internet terms) on a Yahoo group where it was mentioned Oscar hailed from Macon, Georgia. How did his Southern sounding recordings come to appear on a Philly label, though? Well that was probably down to Alan Walden.
In checking Oscar’s discography I was a bit surprised to see that this 45 was released in 1970, it sounds earlier than that to me. It may even have been early 1971 in fact, it got its first mention in the Jan 23 1971 edition of Billboard. By April 3 1971 You Wants to Play could be found, static, in the middle reaches of the Soul Singles chart. By then it was in its 6th week on the chart. Digging deeper into the Billboard magazines from around that time – meandering around these old magazines in all their preserved glory at Google books is a thing I get constant pleasure from – I found that Oscar Weathers, along with Bill Coday and Phillip Mitchell to name two others, were all part of the roster of artists on a then fledgling Macon based artist management, publishing, and recording company – Hustlers Inc. This had been set up in late 1970 by Alan Walden, and Eddie Floyd also had involvement. By that time Alan Walden had already had plenty of experience in music publishing having been part of Redwal Music along with his older brother Phil, and Otis Redding. When A Man Loves A Woman was just one of the songs they had publishing rights on. Hustlers Inc. therefore obviously had plenty of connections in the music industry and would have been well placed to promote their artists to labels nationally so that is probably how Oscar Weathers got a deal on a Philly label.
It’s odd that You Wants to Play was the side that got the chart credit at the time of its release. Nowadays this 45 is always listed in discographies with The Spoiler as the A, which seems to be correct if you look at the matrix numbers on the label. (Incidentally, I have just noticed they follow the Phil LA Of Soul label’s convention for numbering, which I have always loved – I’m sad, I know - i.e. in this case TB-OWE-5 and -6 so TB for Top & Bottom, O for Oscar, WE for Weathers and 5 and 6 for the fifth and sixth tracks by the artist on the label). I could imagine The Spoiler being more instantly radio friendly too and therefore having more hit potential but it is You Wants To Play that seemed to get the sales and the plaudits.
Deservedly so too, it’s a gorgeous track. Written by Oscar it runs to four minutes, quite long for a 45 of that era. Oscar is tired of his woman playing games with his heart and attentions. The games were no doubt stormy, the flood came, and now Oscar has had enough and this song is a glorious meander through the alluvial deposits that are his thoughts. (Just there too, is that guitar describing an oxbow lake?) . The guitar and horns provide some delightful touches and the (way)backing singers are hauntingly beautiful. In fact I would be happy if this song could meander on forever.