For All The Bad Mama Jamas

Born in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood in 1952, Carl Carlton spent his childhood in a city that was on the verge of a new musical revolution.  When Motown was founded in 1959, the signature “Motown sound” soon became a model for what everyone aspired to sound like.  Carl Carlton began singing and recording in the mid 1960s after a fed-up neighbor who lived near a field used for baseball by the neighborhood kids heard Carl singing and initially thought that the kids’ radio was turned up too loud.  When that neighbor was told by the other kids that it was actually Carl, he was taken to the Lando Records studio to record his soulful voice under the moniker “Little Carl Carlton” – a play off of the popularity “Little Stevie Wonder” was achieving at the time.  He recorded the songs “I Love True Love,” and “Competition Ain’t Nothing,” the latter going on to achieve some popularity in the area and catch the ear of Don Robey’s Back Beat Records, located in Houston Texas.  Carlton moved to Houston and throughout the 1970s, he recorded for Back Beat and achieved modest success, but it was a collaboration with soul-singer Leon Haywood and a contract with 20th Century that would lead to his biggest success as an artist.  In 1981, 20th Century released “She’s A Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” which went gold and stayed at the #2 spot on the charts for eight straight weeks (ironically it was another Detroit native, Diana Ross, who kept him out of the #1 spot on the charts with ‘Endless Love’).  Carl Carlton appeared on Solid Gold, Soul Train, and American Bandstand, but always made it a point to stop in his hometown of Detroit to play whenever the opportunity would arise.

 

Go back to 1981 and groove with Carl Carlton on his biggest hit, “She’s A Bad Mama Jama” below!


We Love The Contours

Originally formed in Detroit in 1958, The Contours started out as a quartet consisting of lead singer Billy Gordon, Billy Hogg, Joe Billingslea and Sylvester Potts.  Their original name was The Blenders, but after the addition of guitarist Huey Davis and Hubert Johnson (cousin of Jackie Wilson), they became The Contours and auditioned with Berry Gordy at Wilson’s suggestion and were signed to Motown in 1961.  Most Motown acts at the time upheld an image of style, sophistication, and smooth choreography…which is why The Contours, with their leaps, splits, rowdy R&B style, and refusal to contain their energy during performance, fell out of sorts with Motown early on and were most known for their 1962 hit “Do You Love Me?,”originally written by Berry Gordy for The Temptations.  “Do You Love Me?” was the only Contours single to hit the top 40 on the Billboard charts, however, the single achieved this feat not once, but twice — for the first time in 1962 when the song was released, and again in 1988 thanks to Patrick Swayze and a film called Dirty Dancing.

 

Please enjoy The Contours’ biggest hit below!


Freda Payne : Detroit Gold

Freda Payne was born in Detroit in 1942 with Motown soul in her genes — both Freda and her sister, former Supreme Scherrie Payne, were blessed with the gift of vocal prowess.  Freda Payne attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Arts when she was younger and grew up with the influence of female jazz vocalists.  She entered and won many local talent shows around the Detroit area, persuading her to take her voice to New York City to strike it big.  Funny enough, it was the famed trio of Motown writers, Holland-Dozier-Holland, who put Payne on the map by offering her their song, “Band of Gold,” for her to record in 1969.  At the point that Holland-Dozier-Holland offered Payne the song, she had already had 2 jazz albums, a part in a theatre production, and an appearance on The Tonight Show under her belt from the past six years she had been in New York.  Payne recorded “Band of Gold” for Holland-Dozier-Holland’s newly formed label Invictus, and it became her first song to reach a #1 spot on the charts in the UK (the song reached as high as #3 on the US charts).  It was also, appropriately, Freda Payne’s first gold record.

 

Please enjoy Freda Payne performing her most beloved hit in the video below!


Saving R&B with B Williams

B Williams

While only in his early thirties, Grammy Award nominee Brandon “B” Williams has been sharing music with us for a while. As a direct protégé of super producer Michael J. Powell, Brandon has lent his production skills to many artists: Janet Jackson, Pharoahe Monch, Bobby Creekwater, Vickie Winans, Jadakiss, Lin Rountree, Anita Baker, Jay Electronica, Jeymes Samuel, Ryan Leslie, and Amp Fiddler to name a few.

As an artist, Brandon stays busy touring and gigging locally with his group, The B Williams Experiment. But the next big thing for Brandon is his upcoming debut solo project, titled XII. We just saw the first single released, “Stronger”, which has been climbing the charts and acquiring accolades. With the album  slated to drop in 2014, we caught up with the hard-to-catch musician/producer for an in-depth conversation:


  • Brandon, you’ve worked with producer Michael Powell and have been touching various artists albums throughout the past few years, accumulating Grammy nominations and other production awards. How have these building blocks been essential for producing your upcoming solo album XII ?
  • It’s been an absolute blessing to work with and be mentored by him. I’ve been listening to his music literally all my life, so I jumped at the chance when he asked me to collaborate with him on some music. I was actually very surprised. In my mind, I’m thinking… this is Michael J. Powell. The man who produced all of Anita Baker’s hits. He wants me to work with him? It’s been a great relationship ever since. Working with him taught me how to make records versus just making songs.
  • “is on a mission to bring back Classic R&B by any means necessary”. In your opinion what happened to Classic R&B? Why does it need saving and how are you planning on doing it?
  • I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it’s on life-support right now for sure!!

    Most of the artists people are calling R&B (Chris Brown, Trey Songz) are really Pop. You have Frank Ocean and The Weeknd around, but that’s a very different kind of R&B. I’m not a big Miguel fan, but he’s definitely doing it right now. Brandy, Usher, Brian McKnight, Tank, and some others are still around, but you hear much from them.

    Robert Glasper has a new album out that’s VERY R&B!! Brandy and Faith Evans are on there killin’. It needs saving because people miss that 80’s and 90’s R&B sound. People are longing for it. We miss groups like Blackstreet, SWV, Jodeci, Janet (Jackson), etc. I’m just going to continue to do music that “feels “ like that.

  • You do a great job of blending genres, like you do with your band , the B. Williams Experiment, citing influences from Coltrane, Dilla and Radio Head. Is XII going to showcase this side of you, or is XII going to be more strictly a classic R&B project?
  • Thanks!! XII is definitely not an R&B album. I don’t quite know what to call it because there are so many different genres on it. I’m a student of all music, and I’m influenced by it all. Soul, R&B, Jazz, Pop… it’s a wide range of music on the album, but it all still works together. If I had to categorize it, I would simply call it a “soul” album, because that’s where the music is coming from.
  • Tell me about your songwriting process. What do you start with? An idea, guitar lick, bass line? What’s the creative process like and when do you start thinking about which artists to include in your music?
  • Man, I start with any and everything. I remember one time hearing a succession of cars horns and that became a melody. Lol! I play multiple instruments, so I can write on them all. Sometimes I’ll be out and a melody will pop into my head so I’ll just record it into my phone until I can get back in the studio. Normally though, I start with either some chords on piano or a drum pattern.

    I just finished the last song idea for XII, and for that one, I had my keyboard player and good friend Tony Gordon over. I told him to just play some chords. I picked out what I want, then picked up the guitar and started going around those. Came up with a drum pattern, and BOOM! A song was born. It’s feels heavenly too.

    When it comes to picking artists for song, I normally just go with who would work best on the song. Like, for the new single “Stronger”, it’s has a stronger 90’s R&B feel, so, who better to pair with on that than Jean (Baylor). Her group Zhane was huge in the 90’s. All of their music felt great. I’m so honored to have worked with her on that song. Shout out to Marcus Baylor as well, who had a huge part to play in that song. He did her vocal production, and played live drums. It’s a great tune!!

The Big 3:
Detroit musicians that have inspired you, past or present:

• Stevie Wonder,  Karriem Riggins, Charles Wilson III

Other musicians that have inspired you, national or international, past or present:

• Joe Sample, George Duke, Ivan Lins

Ways Detroit has influenced you as a musician:

• Detroit has such a rich musical history. I’m simply inspired to do what I do from that. Lots of greatness has come before me, and I’m planning on continuing with that.

If I had to categorize it, I would simply call XII a “soul” album, because that’s where the music is coming from.


Stay connected with B Williams,

http://www.bwilliamsmusic.com/


The Reflections’ Blue-Eyed Soul

There are multiple musical groups that write and perform under the name, “The Reflections,” but there is only one of those groups with Detroit roots and a catchy hit from 1964 that remains the group’s signature number when they perform to this day.  “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” was penned by songwriters Bob Hamilton and Freddie Gorman (who wrote another classic Motown song performed by The Marvelettes, “Please Mr. Postman”) and when sung by the five members of The Reflections, injected a heavy dose of upbeat, harmonious top-and-bottom Doo-Wop into listeners which resonated and drove the song to classic status.  The Reflections were among several “Blue-Eyed Soul” R&B groups signed to the Detroit label Golden World Records in the early to mid 1960s, but only The Reflections achieved the #6 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with one of their singles.  Lead singer and original member of The Reflections Tony Micale and Detroit-born bassist John Dean still tour as The Reflections to this day and frequently visit the city they achieved their stardom in, playing at several shows and festivals throughout Michigan and keeping the spirit of  oldies and R&B  available to all generations of music fans.  Terry Stewart, President of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, summed up the impact of The Reflections and their staying power very well when he said, “These guys could sing the phone book and still bring the house down”.

 

Please enjoy the classic “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” by The Reflections below.