Our good friend Joshua Clark Davis has just written an article that has relevance to Carolina Soul. “For the Records: How African American Consumers and Music Retailers Created Commercial Public Space in the 1960s and 1970s South” focuses on the history of black-owned record stores in North Carolina and throughout the South and is a recommended new piece of original research that appears in the current music issue of Southern Cultures. The following excerpt touches on some personalities and establishments of the Triangle region:
“Records is a market that can be used to brighten the future of lots of black people with jobs and higher prestige all over the country,” Jimmy Liggins announced in 1976 to the readers of the Carolina Times, Durham, North Carolina’s most prominent African American newspaper. Liggins, a minor rhythm and blues star of the 1950s, was publicizing his Duplex National Black Gold Record Pool, headquartered in Durham, which sought to “help and assist black people to own and sell the music and talent blacks produce.” With the aid of this “self helping program,” aspiring hit-makers could record and release music that Black Gold sold through mail order and at Liggins’s shop, Snoopy’s Records, in downtown Durham.
Kenny Mann (of the band Liquid Pleasure) vividly recalls his frequent trips to Snoopy’s as a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Liggins “was like a god” to Mann and other young customers who patronized the store. “Everybody knew” Liggins and his two business partners, Henry Bates and Paul Truitt. “These guys, I was listening to them talk about bringing Tyrone Davis and Johnny Taylor and Al Green to town . . . It was fun to go [to their store] because it felt like the place to be; there were girls in there, and I was twelve, thirteen years old.” Not only that, but Mann “never felt the pressure to buy something” like he did in stores in his hometown of Chapel Hill, where white shopkeepers frequently followed young African American shoppers around their businesses, suspecting they might shoplift. “They had a double standard,” Mann remembers. Chapel Hill “really was set up as if they didn’t want to do business with us black people.” In sharp contrast, Liggins envisioned Snoopy’s as “our mall”—a “hang out” where black consumers could buy black music in a record store owned and operated by African Americans. Black-owned record stores like Snoopy’s represented a crucial nexus where African American enterprise, consumer culture, community, and of course, music all met.
Many more local luminaries figure in the article, such as Curtiss “Curt” Moore, who was previously profiled at Carolina Soul here and here. Owner of three Curt’s Records Stores in and around Greensboro from the 1960s through 1980s, Moore is seen below in one of his shops circa 1966.
When asked about the Stars’ longevity, vocalist Nehemiah “Slim” Small (who was only born the year that original manager Robert White Sr. assembled the first line-up) explained that “we know what people like and what people don’t like.” Mr. Small, who’s been with the group for 40 years (second only to George Inabinett, who’s clocked in a half century), also added that “the biggest things that break up a group are women and money.” Here’s a photo from one of his first years:
And here’s the 2007 line-up:
One staple of the Silver Stars’ programs throughout the years has been “The Bible Days,” and we are pleased to share a late-‘70s take that’s found on their only-ever 45-rpm release.
Durham, North Carolina’s Family Sircle group plans to release two CD singles ahead of a 14-track full-length in mid-August. The first single, which you can preview below, is entitled “Natural Attraction.” The group will be performing this number and many others in concert at the Alston Avenue Elks Lodge on Saturday, July 2nd (3920 South Alston Ave, Durham, NC). This will only be their third performance since long-time vocalist Edgar Saunders passed away in the fall of 2009.
These sweet soul specialists’ Carolina Soul roots run deep. Edgar Saunders (in the middle on the cover of their 1999 debut, below) sang with several local ‘70s-era acts including Blue Steam (aka Formula 12) and the Modulations. His brothers Stanley Saunders and Jerome Saunders worked with Duralcha and the Differences, respectively, and represent half of their re-vamped vocal line-up (they’re on the left and right in the picture at the top of this entry). Barry Nichols (pictured in the middle, above) and Pierce McKoy (not pictured; worked out-of-state for a spell with national artist Main Ingredient), share the singing duties.
Excerpt of “Natural Attraction” by Family Sircle (2011).
R&B vocalist Shirley Clinton will celebrate the release of her third solo CD “Just Think About It” on Saturday June 25, 2011 at the American Legion Post in Greensboro, North Carolina (3214 McConnell Road; near NC A&T’s Aggie Farm). Opening acts include Betty Jackson, a new solo artist and a sister of Ms. Clinton, and Psychic, a Greensboro-based reggae performer. More details are on Facebook.
A niece of George Clinton, Ms. Clinton’s first record “You Mean the World to Me” came out in 1992; her sophomore effort “So Love” followed 17 years later under the moniker Queenie ToVahn. Preceding her solo career, Ms. Clinton cut her teeth on the 1980s Carolina Soul scene. By the mid-‘80s she was the lead vocalist for the Undertakers Band of Greensboro. Later known as Horizon, this outfit was managed by Curt Moore for a time. The musical leaders of the group were the guitarist brothers Johnny and Allen Woodard and Clinton family friend Lonnie Dodson on keys. (Dodson now tours with the Chairman of the Board.) Before breaking out on her own, Ms. Clinton next joined the Mighty Majors, subject of previous Carolina Soul posts.
“We go all the way back to 1957. It’s when we organized this band. I’m one of the only original people who’s still left. These guys will quickly tell you that they aren’t that old. Don’t let them fool you, they are. We organized the band, and we called ourselves the Monitors. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this, but there was a radio program called The Monitor, I think it was NBC. And it was the first time that they started putting all the news on one program: the sports, the weather, the local news, the state news, the national news, all in one program. So when we heard that, we said ‘that’s what we want to do, we want to be a band that can play all kinds of music.’ Anything you want to hear, we’re able to do that. We got guys who played around James Brown for years…Clarence Carter, they’ve been all around the world playing. Our repertoire is very extensive. We could be here all day long and never repeat the same song. That’s what we’ve been doing for years, and we just love music, and we’re going to keep on doing this until we just don’t have any more air.”
Those are the words of Bill Myers, early in a PineCone-sponsored gig on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at Bond Park in Cary, North Carolina. His group, the Monitors, traveled from Wilson, North Carolina to showcase their time-tested blend of jazz, r&b, soul, and oldies to a receptive crowd at the Sertoma Amphitheatre. The band will be performing on a national scale in early July; they’ll play several dates at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
From right to left: Sam Lathan (drums), Bill Myers (saxophone), Richard “Dick” Knight (trumpet), Gerald Hunter (guitar), Mollie Hunter (vocals/percussion).
Follow the link below for an audio montage featuring several of the group’s long-time members in concert last Saturday. You’ll hear from Mr. Myers (who had a hand in the original 1960s recording of “The Love Knot”), guitar player Gerald Hunter (vocalist on “A Lover’s Question”; he led several groups in the 1970s such as the Evening Light Gospel Singers), vocalist Mollie Hunter (on “Jazzy Lady”), drummer Sam Lathan (vocalist on “More Today Than Yesterday”; he anchored James Brown’s rhythm section for a time in the 1960s), and trumpet player Richard “Dick” Knight (soloist on “Mister Magic”; this one-time James Brown band member founded Kinston’s Dick Knight and the Bossatettes in the 1960s).
The Carolina Soul website serves as a living encyclopedia of soul music made in North and South Carolina. We strive to share Carolinian songs and stories of the last half century, and we invite the input of musicians and fans. We hope you will contact us if you have information on bands or recordings from the region.