Chicago Cubs Clark St. Band - Slide
The 1969 Cubs
Howdy folks. Those that know me, and have followed by wild rantings over the years know that I am a stone organ jam freak, and that I seek out the sound of the wailing Hammond organ like Republicans seek out graft, i.e. relentlessly. Knowing that, my old pal Haim, a once and future record dealer (and expert) would often hep me to his new discoveries, and more often than not, I would reach into yon billfold and yank out some of the filthy lucre in order to exchange it for said records. It was during one such exchange, many years ago that he pulled a disc out of his crates that at first struck me as, how do they say, improbable. It was a 45 recorded by members of the 1969 Chicago Cubs, “singing” a version of Little Willie John’s “Fever” with rewritten, baseball-specific lyrics, entitled (unsurprisingly) “Pennant Fever”. I of course have little or no interest in baseball or any of the associated memorabilia, so I wondered aloud what about this particular record would interest me. Then Haim dropped the hammer.... He flipped the disc over to reveal an instrumental called “Slide” by the almost certainly mythical Chicago Cubs Clark St. Band. As soon as the needle hit the wax I knew I was going to leave his house with a slightly lighter wallet than I arrived with.* There, erupting from the grooves was the track you hear today. Led by a slamming soul Hammond, a grooving drummer and guitarist (I think the bass is Hammond pedals) lay down a smoking instro, sure to appeal to the dancers and the head-nodding wallflowers alike. Aside for the fact that the band includes an organ, it couldn’t have less to do with baseball, ballparks or any other part of the sporting picture. In the ensuing years, we often wondered what the source of the instrumental was. Eventually, one of the names on the label produced the only concrete clue. ‘Slide’ was arranged by Richard Rome. I first came across Rome’s name when digging for Philadelphia soul and funk 45s. His recording for the Fayette label “Ghost A Go Go”, and ultra rare organ instro likely of a mid-60’s vintage showed up in a few places on the interweb, and was subsequently reissued a few times in the UK. These days it is rumored to change hands for several hundred pounds (yipe). I have never seen a copy out in the field. Researching further, it turned out that Richard Rome was a busy man on the Philadelphia music scene of the 60’s and 70’s working as a keyboardist and arranger for many of the acts in the Gamble/Huff stable, like the O’Jays, Archie Bell and others. He also arranged all three 45s (every one a gem) by one of my fave Philly soul groups, the Formations (‘At The Top of the Stairs’ is no less than brilliant). So, what does this tell me? Not a hell of a lot, as it turns out. However, I’m willing to make an educated guess, that being...that someone in Philly (maybe Rome himself) was working the Hammond on ‘Slide’, and that the track ended up being leased to Chess Records, only to languish on the b-side of a novelty record. Though the track is credited to R. Spain and N. Alfred (neither of which ring a bell), the arranging credit for Rome, who worked exclusively in Philadelphia suggests to me that the track originated in the land of cheese steak and sweet soul. If anyone out there in blog-land has any more info as to the origins of this mighty track (or corrections to anything I’ve written today), please let me know.
* A little later I flipped my first copy of the 45 for the copy you see today, accompanied by the groovy picture sleeve (purchased from someone selling sports memorabilia, for the princely sum of $10).