Musician and crate-digger extraordinaire Jeb Loy Nichols tells the stories behind the stops on his musical railroad, from a deep friendship with Adrian Sherwood and the heroes of Muscle Shoals that led to a love of bluegrass, country, reggae and soul
Bobby Womack - Looking For A Love Again
Joe Simon - The Chokin' Kind
When I was in my early teens I spent hours listening to the radio. The radio was all we had - it gave us music, baseball scores, local news, gospel, weather reports. The music I heard ranged from pop to country to soul to blues. When I was 13 I discovered a late night radio station out of Kansas City that played three hours of soul every night. The radio station was KCMO, and the DJ was Velvet Sweetback. The first hour was called The Go Show and featured up-tempo tracks. The next hour was the Flow Show and was all mid-tempo. The final hour was the Slow Show and was all slow jams. My favourite was the Flow Show. All the songs were introduced with a dedication from a listener, so you'd get Velvet Sweetback saying, "This one is going out to Teddy who's working on the night shift from his main lady Lucy". That's when I discovered Southern Soul. I knew about Motown, I'd heard a lot of pop R&B, but now I was introduced to Bobby Womack and Johnnie Taylor and the whole Nashville/Memphis/Muscle Shoals thing. That mix of country and soul, of restraint and regret, made instant sense to me. Bobby Womack sang with the passion of Ralph Stanley, Joe Simon was pure Ernest Tubb. It was all Southern, it was all deep, it was all dirty. One of my favourite tracks on Looking For A Love Again was 'You're Messin' Up A Good Thing', a track co-written by Clayton Ivey, who was the keyboard player in The Fame Gang, one of the great Muscle Shoal rhythm sections. I later learned that Clayton, and most of the Muscle Shoals players, were white guys. I'd been listening to southern soul for years before I knew that. When I met Clayton and Spooner Oldham and all the musicians that came from Muscle Shoals, they said, sure, we grew up in the same fields, in the same churches, listening to the same music. So when Joe Simon sang 'The Chokin Kind', a country song written by Harlan Howard, it wasn't a stretch, it was the music that they all knew. And Joe Simon sang in a big, country voice. It wasn't contrived or manufactured, it was simply what, and who, they were. Both Bobby Womack and Joe Simon recorded straight country records as well; BW Goes C&W and Simon Country.