My son just named his new guinea pig “Sally,” and though I’m not a fan of rodent type critters, I think Sally is pretty cool. Also, guinea pigs make this really odd electronic kind of sound when their excited.
Some time ago I wrote about a Jean Dushon single on Atco Records “I’m Tired,” produced by Phil Specter. And with absolute over the top aplomb I ranted, raved and foamed like peroxide on a road rash about that track. “How,” I thought “can it get any better than this?” A discovery like this, out of the blue, only happens once in a lifetime to a lowly record store employee.
I went so far as to write that my aching back was miraculously healed by the Bo Diddlyesque drumbeat; it had to be the vibrations!
Well … I may have been wrong; I know this revelation may surprise you. I’m generally not one to exaggerate. Really. Anyway, my backache returned and eventually worsened, but did I lose hope? Almost … but no! I felt that somewhere down the line something greater, something deeper was going to breathe life back into me, an empty shell of a man. Carpe Diem! Corpus, Mens, Spiritus! E pluribus unum! Eureka! Ars longa vita brevis!
A few months back I discovered a 7 inch record from a somewhat obscure singer, Anna King … and this time I think I actually had a religious experience. My back wasn’t healed, but I swear to god I didn’t have an asthma attack for weeks. It’s as if my ears and lungs and bronchial tubes were touched by healing hands.
“Was that you Katherine Kuhlman?”
Long ago I discovered that the flip side is often the hot side, and "Sally" is the B-side to "Mama’s Got a Bag of Her Own", a kind of a dig at Anna King’s old boss. "Sally" is an impossibly soulful, medium tempo ballad with just a hint of a musical arrangement. To start with, there’s a little piano, a touch of a bass line, a kick drum and all the room in the world for the vocals. King first starts off a little breathy, a little hesitant, telling her dear friend Sally about her no good boyfriend. But by the end the full band kicks in and the vocals just lay it on the line: Sally should just forget about that son of a bitch, because as Anna King plainly states, “I’m gonna steal him from you.” And I thought they were pals! I just don’t have the words to explain the greatness of this cut. Find it, if it takes you a decade, it would still be worth your time. Think of it as a religious pilgrimage. I’m serious!
Anna King was born in 1937. She was initially a gospel singer, but her big break came when she auditioned for James Brown searching for Tammi Terrell’s replacement. After Anna joined his revue, she released a few singles on Smash Records, under the guidance of The Hardest Working Man In Show Business. Brown wrote the gospel influenced "If Somebody Told You," released in 1963, reaching both R&B and pop charts. She then recorded the soul classic "Baby Baby Baby," in a duet with JB's right hand man, Bobby Byrd.
Anna King left the James Brown revue in late 1964 to go her own way, although still contracted to him; she released two more singles on Smash Records: "Come on Home/Sittin' in the Dark" and "That's When I Cry/Tennessee Waltz."
Finally free from James Brown (but are you ever free from Soul Brother Number One?), she released an answer record to "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," the previously mentioned "Mama's Got a Bag of Her Own", on End Records, 1964. And that’s where we are now ... Oddly enough this would be her last secular recording. She retired from the business; her entire recording career lasted just over a year. A few years later she got a call from Duke Ellington to sing his sacred concerts. In the mid 1970’s she became a minister, but by then she was done singing professionally. She was still ministering when she died in Philadelphia on October 21, 2002. As far as I’m concerned "Sally" is right up there with the best releases from Aretha and Tina.
Side note: about my “religious experience.” I was raised in a Catholic household, sent to Catholic school and I like to say I lost my virginity on Venerable Matt Talbot day … oh, that’s funny! Anyway, the first time I had an out-of-body-experience/visions-of-Valhalla, quavers-at-the-sound-of-angels-singing, I wasn’t on mind altering drugs or even alcohol. I was, for the first time, eating at a Creole and Cajun restaurant. I’ve never had the same relationship with food since. That, my friend, was a religious experience. Amen! Now just for the hell of it here are some more Latin phrases: Nisi sapientia frustra. Altiora Petamus. Experientia Docet. And finally, Lux et Veritas. But you knew that already.