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.
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.
If you’ve never tuned in to North Carolina’s A&T’s collegiate frequency, 90.1-WNAA, you are assuredly missing out on some of the state’s finest, commercial-free programming. The latest addition to the Voice’s rich roster is local legend, Busta Brown, who spent ten years at 102 Jamz before making a grown-and-sexy migration to 97.1 WQMG. Despite generating meaningful, socially constructive content and unifying generations of Triad listeners in the process, WQMG declined to renew Brown’s contract. Brown is now at 90.1 where he continues to host “An Afternoon Thang.” Advantages: He can play old school hip-hop and mention weed. Disadvantages: He is not getting paid for his services. “For me,” explains Brown, “doing the show here is not about the money—it’s about continuing to connect with my audience.”
“The Afternoon Thing,” can be heard from 3-5pm, Monday-Thursday on 90.1-WNAA.
Garry Percell is one of the fundamental figures in the concentrated soul community of Reidsville, NC. Although Percell’s most recognizable Carolina contribution came as guitarist for beach phenoms Chairmen of the Board, Percell’s sonic portfolio contains a number of interesting indie releases, including this fine relic of below-the-radar boogie, “You’re a Star.”
The members of Style would converge at the Budweiser Superfest via three different outfits—Spectrum, Obladi, and the Butlers. Recognizing their collective potential, the groups incorporated, soon approaching Greensboro’s newly constructed Sound Lab Recording Studio. Smitten with the powerful nonet’s sound and compositional prowess, the Lab waived recording fees, minting “You’re a Star” on their house label, Panda. Their freshman folly was omitting the band’s name from the release, heralding a death knell for the fledgling imprint. Style would also disband soon after this record’s conception, leaving one to ponder, “What happened to all of those glorious uniforms?”
More gospel on a Sunday, this time by Booker T. McGert and The Spiritual Messengers of Gibsonville, North Carolina. Slow and beautiful stuff, it’s one of many releases on the great, Greensboro-based Ken-Yatta label that was run by the late Reverend Curtis M. Carrington.
Booker T. McGert and The Spiritual Messengers “I’ve Got A Home In That Rock”
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.