Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Billy Vera & Judy Clay - Really Together

Billy Vera & Judy Clay
I remember back when I was in high school I attended a beer blast a some kids house in a slightly more well to do area than I was accustomed to (friend of a guy I was in a band with). The kid’s Dad was in some peripheral way employed in the “recording industry”, i.e. strictly non-musical, promotions or some such. So, the gang is all liquored up, and this kid breaks open a box of square pinback buttons for a group called Billy and the Beaters. After we all got our “whothefuckartheys” and masturbation jokes about the band’s name out of our systems, we each grabbed several as keepsakes and that’s the last I ever heard of Billy and the Beaters…… Until…. The mid-1980’s rolls around and suddenly Billy Vera and the Beaters have a smash hit (some pile of mush prom theme type tune from the TV series ‘Family Ties’) and suddenly I’m wondering what happened to my Billy and the Beaters badge. Which in a sane world would be neither here nor there and a just and fitting end to an otherwise pointless story… Except for the fact that a year or so later, not long after I’d started digging for soul 45s, I discover that Billy Vera wasn’t always a mush-peddler. The 45 in question was Billy Vera and Judy Clay doing ‘Storybook Children’ – a soul/countrypolitan/pop duet that charted in 1968. The record was a landmark of a kind because it was one of the first interracial duets to hit the pop charts. Many assumed that the theme of the song dealt with interracial romance, but Vera has stated that it’s about adultery. So, nice tune. I still like playing it once in a while (as well as some other nice tracks from the ‘Storybook Children’ LP). The story really picks up some relevance to the old blog when I flipped over said 45, and discovered a little bit of dynamite. The b-side of ‘Storybook Children’ was the hard charging ‘Really Together’. Though credited to Billy Vera and Judy Clay, I’ll be damned if Clay is on the record at all (even the backing vocals on the track are male, probably Vera doubling himself). The tune is a fast moving slice of Southern soul (even if it was recorded in New York City and produced by Chip Taylor (?!?!?), that sounds like it dropped straight out of Muscle Shoals. Vera’s blue-eyed soulboy vocals are right on the money, and the lyrics are great:
I saw a fat man, on the piano Working some joint down in Louisiana With a three fingered guitar player Then I got a hold of dynamite drummer Son of a preacher and a rum runner Bass man got the feelin’ To set any barroom reelin’ And later… With a suitcase in my hand We went up North to the promised land Every joint we played, the marquee said “Straight from the bayou without no shoes!” It’s a solid burner and clocks in at a tasty and economical 1:55! I don’t know if ‘Really Together’ – which for me ranks with the tightest Atlantic soul records of the era – was originally intended for the Vera/Clay LP, or done at an earlier time as a Vera solo 45 (he had other 45s and at least one LP under his own name for Atlantic in the same period). Either way it’s kind of a great lost/hidden treasure; the kind of record I play for people and they’re all ‘Hey! Who’s that?!’. Vera later redeemed himself for any detours into “mush” with his work as a musical historian, compiling and annotating many Blues, R&B and rock reissue projects.


Blogger guapo said...

I hadn`t heard this in years. It`s a killer track. It`s kind of, well...really together!

5/26/2005 04:36:00 AM  
Anonymous spyboyroy said...

Larry: This is truly a killer track, however I must say, as a great fan of Roger Hawkins of M.S.Fame (Fame-get it?)This drummer is about 4 cups-of- coffee in front of the beat.I'd say, given who Ahmet used in those days, that the drummer was Herb Lovell,or Norman Pride (Purdie's cousin) Bass-Jerry Jemott, Guitar-Billy Butler and,blowing somewhere,King Curtis.
Roy Markowitz

Gonna link up with this site o yours boy!

5/28/2005 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Billy Vera said...

Glad you like this track, Larry! FYI, it was recorded as a b-side for "Storybook Children," which we originally cut with Nona Hendrix. The Bluebelles' manager nixed the duet because he was afraid a hit by Billy & Nona would break up the group, so we auditioned 20 girl singers until Jerry Wexler recommended Judy Clay, who we loved.

However, Jerry didn't like the new track of "Storybook Children," so we went back to the original demo rhythm track, played by Earl Williams-drums, Jimmy Tyrell-bass, Butch Mann-guitar and Wexler added strings at the end of a Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles' session.

We kept "Really Together" from the other session. The rhythm section on that was, again, Williams and Tyrell, but the guitarist was the legendary Linc Chamberland from Norwalk, CT, who also wrote the horn charts.

And you're right, Judy does not appear on this track; it's just me singing lead and harmony with myself.


5/31/2005 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Thanks for stopping by Billy!
That whole album is great, but 'Really Together' will always be my fave.
Thanks for the additional info too.

6/01/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ruby Jones said...

Now you need to post something with Judy, who is so fine. I always wanted to hear the stuff that she and Billy Vera did together, just for the thrill of it.

6/02/2005 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

I'll probably do either 'Country Girl, City Man' or 'Storybook Children" (one of my wife's faves) in the future.
Not to mention Judy's duet with William Bell, 'Private Number'.

6/03/2005 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Yes, Billy Vera had a fine musical career, but I'm fondest of his performance as Pinky Caruthers in the cult classic film, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension."

The character, a member of Buckaroo's Blue Blaze Irregulars, is the archivist for the Banzai Institute, and the very excellent DVD of the film contains a closed-captioning feature called "Pinky Caruther's Footnotes," which inserts subtitled comments regarding characters & onscreen happenings. Very fun.

6/20/2005 05:27:00 PM  

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