Tres Songs – Rhythm and Blues

(Pictured: The Four Tops)

Wherein I put together three tunes, much like a disc jockey would. In this case, I had a couple of ’60’s R&B tunes in my head. The Sixties weren’t just a time of Beatles and psychedelic music. There was a lot of good soul and R&B and I think it’s a shame that any of these songs should be forgotten.

So let’s spin them one more time. Two of these songs were released in 1969, one in 1968. And these were all Top 40. Compare them to what’s on the radio in that space today. This is the kind of stuff we ate up in Philly. 

A band called the Joe Jeffrey group had a hit in 1969 with the bouncy, infectious “My Pledge of Love.” In the little I can ascertain about him, Jeffrey was a singer/guitarist/songwriter who fronted this one-hit wonder band.

After this song, he never really regained momentum but spent years playing clubs in and around the Cleveland area. Coincidentally he died in 2016, aged 80:

Spotify link

Sonny Charles is the leader of a band called the Checkmates, a band not only still active but who actually toured with Steve Miller a few years ago.

“Black Pearl” is a prime example of soul, R&B – call it what you will. What I didn’t know when I first heard it was that it was a tribute to black women. And! It was co-written the by the ubiquitous Phil Spector. Go figure. Try to get this one out of your head:

Spotify link

A New York group called the Left Banke had a hit in 1966 with a song called “Walk Away Renee.” Apparently the writer of the song had a bad case of unrequited love for one of the other band members’ girlfriends. And so she was his Layla.

I dug both their versions but had a slight preference for the Four Tops cover. Hard to say which one was more popular:

Spotify link

14 thoughts on “Tres Songs – Rhythm and Blues

  1. “My Pledge of Love”… what a fantastic little song: horns, strings, infectious rhythm guitar, clever arrangement. This stuff was all over AM radio when I was a kid in Detroit. Here goes: Why can’t they make songs like that today?? Thanks, Jim. I’ll be humming this song all day.

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  2. Jim, I never knew who did the song, but it was burned into my musical memory early on. I looked it up, and it hit the charts on May 23, 1969. We were in northern Ohio from ’63 thru ’67, then Detroit from ’68 thru ’69, then back to Ohio from late ’69 onwards. But it’s all irrelevant, because the all-powerful AM station, CKLW, was based in Windsor, Ontario, and its signal encompassed both Michigan and northern Ohio. My late ’60s and early ’70s soundtrack was loaded with this catchy R&B music.

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    1. You are a ramblin’ man. I love those kind of stations. So many rockers and blues guys you read about picked up maybe one station growing up but it was just the right one.

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  3. You are so right, Jim. The ’60s were much more than just The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Bryds and Pink Floyd, to name a few – and I say this as somebody who digs each of these bands! In fact, the irony is I also love soul music, especially the Motown and Stax acts, yet I rarely blog about the artists. While I don’t do this deliberately, it’s actually a shame and something I’m planning to change.

    The three tunes you highlighted and so many other 60s soul songs embody what I think great music is all about: great melodies, great singing, great mastery of real instruments and great grooves. Artists like The Four Tops, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, Otis Redding and Sam & Dave didn’t only do outstanding work in the studio but actually also knew how to deliver their material live. On top of all, they were great entertainers!

    Encouragingly, there are some very talented young soul artists out there, such as Southern Avenue, Kat Wright and Muddy Magnolias. Unfortunately, unlike in the 60s, their music is no longer part of the mainstream. Sadly, most of the latter is generic mediocre crap! But as long as you have contemporary artists who embrace traditional soul music, not all is lost!

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    1. Well said indeed, Christian. I was glib in saying to Pete that this type of music is a “lost art.” It is clearly not and the artists you cite are good examples. And sometimes a retro soul artist like Amy Winehouse goes mainstream and everybody goes nuts because they’re hungry for that sound. I think people will continue to find this music but have to now look for it. Will it (or for that matter, rock) ever return to their former prominence? I don’t know.

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      1. I want to believe great music will ultimately prevail, but I’m not sure either whether it will re-enter the mainstream.

        Without meaning to sound like some smartass sociologist, I think in the age of social media instant gratification, many folks simply aren’t willing to spend much time to find good music, so they end up listening to stuff that’s easy to find, such as the most popular tunes in iTunes. While I refuse to do that, admittedly, oftentimes, I also tend to listen to the artists I know rather than putting more effort to find new stuff.

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        1. And to add to that, I learned long ago that not all music lovers are the same. There are the hardcore like us and our fellow bloggers who take it to the max. And of course plenty of non-blogger music lovers. But then there are people who just like what’s on the radio. And of course those who – Sarah Palin-like – listen to whatever’s put in front of them. (Palin was referring to reading newspapers and that was all said before the men in white coats carted her away.)

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  4. I could.t have named Joe Jeffrey but remember the cut. Yeah one of those songs that made the radio listenable. Seems to me it’s been covered by some-else. SC and the Checkmates are new to me but I dig it. Brings to mind similar artists i like, Gary US Bonds for one. The Tops are a group that put out so many songs I like. Southside Johnny used to pull this one out all the time. Love this stuff and it’s still out there for people like us. Others can listen to whatever’s being peddled, we’ll listen to this stuff.

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    1. “You know that I need you, you know that I love you,” yeah, great stuff. There’s a soul feeling these guys got ‘coz they had it and lived it. I think growing up and traveling around and church and the ‘chitlin’ circuit and all that made these guys sound that way. I don’t know. But it’s stuff I totally dig. I wanted to get ‘Black Pearl’ out there ‘coz it might have been a regional hit, not sure.

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