All posts by Andria Lisle

Happy Birthday, Archie Bell!

Mr. Tighten Up was born on September 1, 1944!

Growing up in Houston, Texas, Archie Bell started singing in church before cutting his teeth in a junior high school vocal group called Little Pop and the Fireballs. By the time he’d made it to high school, he’d formed the Drells, who, though Texans through and through, specialized in a breezy thread of Chicago-style soul. Their unique approach won them many a talent contest and brought them to the attention of local disc jockey and Ovide Records head honcho Skippy Lee Frazier. Their first outing for Frazier, 1966’s “She’s My Woman” became a local hit but the next year Bell was drafted. Before heading off, he and the Drells managed to lay down a few tunes in the company of Texas State University’s ace instrumental soul squad the T.S.U. Tornadoes. One of the songs was a loose, infectious number called “Tighten Up,” which was subsequently released and became a hit, first in Houston and then all over the country.

It crested at number one on both the pop and R&B charts while Drell was recovering from wounds in Vietnam. Learning of his windfall, he began traveling back to the U.S. to record while on leave, and eventually lit out for a national tour with the Drells. It was after a show in New Jersey that he met Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Philadelphia’s leading songwriting and production team. The partnership wound up being a fruitful one, scoring hits such as “I Can’t Stop Dancng,” “Do The Choo-Choo” and the most excellent, “(There’s Gonna Be A) Showdown,” which was later re-invented to perfection by the New York Dolls.

Scene Report: Turner Family Picnic

Last night, the primal sounds of fife and drum music were echoing at the Turner Family Picnic, an annual North Mississippi Hill Country tradition, and Bo-Keys leader Scott Bomar, Ponderosa Stomp graphics designer Kerri Mahoney and I were there to listen. Since the death of Rising Star Fife and Drum Band founder — and Turner … Continue reading Scene Report: Turner Family Picnic

Al Bell, We Salute You!

From the New York Times: Al Bell: Out of Exile, Back in Soulsville By Deborah Sontag As the peacock-blue Cadillac with the gold trim and fur lining spun on a giant turntable in the Stax Museum of American Soul Music here, Al Bell, the final owner of the late, great record label, chuckled. Decades before … Continue reading Al Bell, We Salute You!

Remembering Les Paul and Rashied Ali

From today’s New York Times: Les Paul, Guitar Innovator, Dies at 94 By John Pareles In 1940 or 1941 — the exact date is unknown — Mr. Paul made his guitar breakthrough. Seeking to create electronically sustained notes on the guitar, he attached strings and two pickups to a wooden board with a guitar neck. … Continue reading Remembering Les Paul and Rashied Ali

Roy Loney and Cyril Jordan Plus Miriam Linna Make Three

Were you able to hoof your way to New York last month when Roy Loney and Cyril Jordan of the San Francisco-based face-meltingly fantastic rock group the Flamin Groovies — backed by the ever-capable A-Bones — reprised their appearance at the 8th annual Ponderosa Stomp with a pair of gigs at Maxwell’s and Southpaw? The … Continue reading Roy Loney and Cyril Jordan Plus Miriam Linna Make Three