King Ernest Baker - Somebody Somewhere (Is Playing With Yours)
Wednesday....aaarrrgh. While the glass-half-fullers of the world see it as ‘Hump Day’ (a name which should have been reserved for a much more interesting – yet to be established – national holiday), the “beginning of the end” of the week, I can’t help but feel that such a sentiment is indicative of the kind of wet-brained “optimism” currently infecting the White House. What some see as the gateway to fun and games, I see as a barren shoal in the middle of a still sea, with no land in sight. I hate to burden you with what has become a repeated litany (I should distill it to its essence and enshrine it in some kind of FAQ), but it all goes to explaining a general “philosophy”of sorts (maybe too classy a description) behind the Funky16Corners blog. As I attempt to get new tunes and words posted up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I like to think of the chain of posts as a kind of rickety bridge from one weekend to the next, in which we (the readers and myself) traverse the work week making every effort to maintain equilibrium, aided by the natural power of funk and soul music. I’m willing to admit that it’s possible that no one but myself sees it that way, but one can hope against hope (can’t one?). The strange thing is, that despite my repeated griping, I like my job (as much as its possible to like a “job”). The problem is, that sometime early in my life (probably the period after high school where I had convinced myself that I was going to “work” as a rock musician, a notion from which I was soon – rightly - disabused) I decided that working for a living was “for the squares”, and as a result have resented having to do so for the rest of my life, right up to the present day. That resentment, chiseled into my brain, and always hovering in the background when and wherever responsible action is required, almost always loses out, but it’s always there, lobbing psychological Bronx cheers at me as a reminder of the slacker philosophe I once fancied myself. I can’t help but be embarrassed about it all, but it’s become ingrained in my basic nature. Fish gotta swim. Monkeys have to throw their own poop. I have to gripe about working for a living. Good thing for me that I have a lovely wife, wonderful son, great family and a pastime/avocation that keeps me occupied. Now that that’s out of the way... How about the music? Some time back a year or two ago, someone (and I forget who, so If you’re reading this, I apologi-eeeze) sent me a mix CD with a bunch of cool – and unfamiliar – cuts on it). One of these was a funky organ jam that I hadn’t heard before, and because such records are like mothers milk to me, I set out to track it down. It took me a few months to track down a copy of the record at a reasonable price (please note that the price of a record that I find “reasonable” may in no way conform to generally accepted levels of reasonable-ness). When it finally dropped through the mail slot, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that said organ jam was merely an instrumental dub of the vocal on the a-side, King Ernest Baker’s ‘Somebody Somewhere (Is Playing With Yours)’ on the appropriately named Funk Records. I hadn’t heard of Baker before, and it took a while to find any info on him and his career. It turns out that King Ernest was part of along tradition of R&B singers that passed through a number of genres in his career, recording as a soul, funk, and eventually blues singer. Born and raised in Mississippi, he moved to Chicago in the late 50’s and worked there for a number of years before moving to New York City. He recorded his first record for the Old Town label. The singer, now known as King Ernest, moved back to Chicago in the late 60’s and over the next ten years recorded 45s for Sonic, Barry , Mercury and Funk. I’m not sure, but I’d place ‘Somebody Somewhere (Is Playing With Yours)’ around 1969 or 1970. The backing band on the session was the Pieces of Peace, who had a history as a backing band on a number of Twinight Recrods sessions, for artists like Syl Johnson, Annette Poindexter, and the Dynamic Tints. They recorded one 45 under their own name, “Pass It On Pts 1&2” for Twinight. Opening with powerful horn bursts, ‘Somebody Somewhere (Is Playing With Yours)’ features a strong vocal by King Ernest, hard drums and wailing organ (which would take the lead on the b-side). The arrangement is tight, and the lyrics, an admonition to pay attention to your woman, equally so. King Ernest lays it down... “I know it’s hard to resist temptation With all the miniskirts and hot pants around You’re sneaking here, and sneaking there With every girl you can around town WAKE UP!
Boy you better shape up! Before you find yourself out cold.” Words to live by. King Ernest went on to a career with the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department, and returned to recording in the 90’s for the Evidence and Fat Possum labels (see below). Sadly, he died in a car wreck in 2000, just after completing his last LP.