Baby Huey & The Babysitters – "Mighty", "Mighty" Children (Pt II)

Baby Huey - Mighty, Mighty

This week’s update features a man who only had a short time in the music industry but left a huge legacy during that brief time. Tragically he was to pass away at the criminally young age of 26 after a heart attack that was linked to his drug addiction.

Huey (real name James Ramey) was born in 1944 in Indiana before upping sticks and moving to Chicago at the age of nineteen. As the result of a glandular disorder, his weight ballooned to around 350 pounds which presented many health problems, but in spite of this Huey was starting to gain a reputation for himself as a stirring singer of huge promise. It was around this time that his stage name came to being – so named after a cartoon character of the same name.

The Baby Huey & The Babysitters name was born and the band put out a number of singles which received local acclaim. After a few years playing locally, Huey decided to take a different path following the popularity of psychedelic soul acts (namely Sly & The Family Stone) and went through something of an image overhaul with a huge afro and donning traditional african robes.

In 1969 a meeting with the Curtom label’s arranger, the legendary Donny Hathaway was to prove the turning point for his career. Hathaway convinced Curtis Mayfield to come along to a show to watch Baby Huey and Curtis was so impressed that he offered to sign Huey on the spot….. but not the Babysitters. Despite his reservations about the band an album entitled “The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend” was recorded in 1970, however Huey’s addiction to heroin had ensured he put on even more weight and it was this that led to his early death a few months later.

“The Living Legend” was released posthumously and featured a number of Curtis Mayfield compositions as well as a fantastic cover version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” which showcased Huey’s incredible voice at it’s majestic best. Despite the album’s failure to become a commercial success at the time, many years later hip-hop stars were to plunder the album for samples and funk aficionados starting dropping tracks from the album into their dj sets. These days an original copy is worth quite a bit of money but even if you can’t afford an original, there are reissues which are very affordable and I would implore you to invest in a copy to dig the massive talent that was Baby Huey.

The Five Stairsteps – Ain't Gonna Rest (Till I Get You)

Five Stairsteps - Ain't Gonna Rest

Greetings all – I hope my friends & readers Stateside had an enjoyable Memorial Day yesterday and those based here in the U.K. had a great Bank Holiday. Any extra day off from work is to be welcomed even if it means getting stuck into some D.I.Y. or housekeeping!!

I spent part of yesterday tidying away some of my records and that was how I came across today’s little beauty. It’s easy to forget you have certain tracks in your collection and I’m sure some of you collectors out there have (like me) even ended up with duplicates of the same record. I’m fairly certain however that this is the only copy I own of said record.

I imagine anyone who has even a passing interest in soul/funk music will have heard The Five Stairstep’s huge hit single “Ooh Child”. There have been many cover versions to date and it has been featured in many tv shows and even made an appearance in one of the biggest selling video games of all time (I don’t need to tell you which one!!) and a few years ago was ranked No 392 in Rolling Stone magazines “Top 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time”

Whilst “Ooh Child” is probably the only track many people will be aware of (and they have in the past been rather unfortunately labelled under the “One Hit Wonder” title), the band actually released close to 20 singles during their career of which this one was a minor R&B hit in 1967.

The group’s name came from the fact that their mother thought the children all looked like steps when lined up beside each other according to their age. Their musical career began with an introduction to Fred Cash of The Impressions, which led the group to start working with the legendary Curtis Mayfield who immediately signed them to his Windy City label before moving on to Buddah Records after Windy City folded. The band were nicknamed “The First Family Of Soul” a title which was later to be bestowed upon the Jackson Five.

Clarence Burke Jr sadly passed away almost a year ago to the day with the cause of death unknown, however the group’s legacy still lives on to this day. 

Curtis Mayfield – We Got To Have Peace

It seems at the moment with every passing week there is news of yet another soul legend’s passing and unfortunately last week was no different.

Don Cornelius was the producer and long time presenter of the legendary tv show “Soul Train” from its inception in ’71 right up until 1993.  What started out originally as a small broadcast became a nationwide hit and was the vehicle for which many of soul music’s greatest artists showcased their unique talents. Everyone who was anyone in soul music enjoyed guest appearances on the show including James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson to name a few.

Apart from the fantastic array of guests on display, Soul Train was also well-known for it’s “Soul Train Line” where the audience formed 2 lines and dancers strutted along showing off the latest moves (and quite often the latest fashions) to the sound of one of the soul hits of the time.

This week’s selection features one of those artists whose songs were regularly used as the backdrop to the line dance – Curtis Mayfield. As I’m sure many of you are aware of the great man, there’s little to be gained by me giving you a biography about him, and if you don’t know of him – go buy a book or dvd to educate yourself!!

R.I.P. Brother Don – music tv shows will never be the same again..