Sam and Bill - I'll Try
Sam & Bill
Howdy y’all.... Allow to begin by apologizing for missing my regularly scheduled Monday post. Family responsibilities prevented me from hammering away at my keyboard like I usually do. I spent the extra time taking extra special care in making the selections for the next few weeks posts, and if you’ve been satisfied by the Funky16Corners bill of fare in the past, I assure you I have some gems in store. Normally, I try to pull six or eight sides that ought to hold me for a few weeks of posts. The selections are generally a mix of newly acquired gems and prime stuff that I keep aging in the crates like Kobe beef. This gives things a nice balance between my current enthusiasms and a nice vintage here and there from the Funky16Corners cellars. I already had a couple of excellent newbies burning a hole in the turntable, so I decided to grab a crate at random and see what grabbed me. Now, what I am about to admit will both displease my wife, while simultaneously filling her with a sense of satisfaction.
I have so many records I can’t possibly keep track of them all.
While many of my records are personal favorites that I spent a long time tracking down and treasure dearly, my crates are also filled with piles of things that I either never got a chance to listen to, or just didn’t grab me the first time I heard them. While some people might look at this as a form of “over consumption”, I prefer to think of it as a kind of vinyl slush fund, just waiting for me to dip back in when the flow of new heat ebbs momentarily. I realize that this sounds like a bit of “spin”, but it’s true. Nothing beats pulling out a handful of 45s that don’t ring a bell, slapping them on the turntable and discovering that you missed a couple of winners the first time around. This happens for a variety of reasons. Occasionally I’ll get my hands on a big lot (i.e. hundreds) of records where it’s just not possible to process it all in a limited time period. In a case like that, the inclination is to grab the obvious stuff first, and put the other “interesting” stuff aside for later investigation. As recounted early in the history of this blog, a few years ago, my father-in-law hooked me up with a massive lot of 45s (3000+), which my wife and I scoured over a period of several weeks. I started paring things down by pulling out all the obvious crap (either by virtue of content or condition) and putting it aside. I also pulled all of the obvious heat and put that in its own pile. The next (and biggest) effort was extracting everything that looked promising, giving it a spin and checking it out in the record guides. Once the wheat was separated from the chaff (there was a LOT of chaff), I had some nice stacks of funk, soul and 60’s rock that I would either sell or fold into my own collection (depending on how greedy I was feeling at the time). Some records made it into the “sales” box, and then later on bounced back into the “keepers” box. One such record was ‘I’ll Try’ by Sam and Bill. Originally formed in Newark, NJ in 1962 by Sam Gary (originally the guitarist for the Soul Brothers) and Bill Johnson (a member of the Steps of Rhythm, who recorded for Sun), Sam & Bill went on to hit the R&B charts twice with singles on Johnny Nash’s JoDa records. By 1967, Sam Gary left the duo and was replaced by Sam Davis Jr (no, not the Candy Man...). This version of Sam & Bill recorded 45s for the Decca label. Now when I pulled ‘I’ll Try’ out of the box, and flipped it on the turntable, I could only wonder where my brain was when I spun it the first time.
How did this record not grab me right away?
Was I not paying attention?
All I can say is that I definitely missed the boat, because ‘I’ll Try’ is an absolute killer. Further research reveals that ‘I’ll Try’ has its share of partisans on the Northern Soul scene, and it’s not hard to see why. The record features a strong beat for the dancers, great vocals by Sam & Bill, some wonderful hooks and a powerful arrangement that packs on the power right on up to the anthemic chorus. It’s the kind of record that bands like the Action made a habit of covering. I can’t imagine any self-respecting UK R&B band circa 1967 hearing this record and not wanting to add it to their playlist right away. The tune, written by a certain “F. Tanner” is filled with the kind of twists and turns, and decided pop flavor that mark the best “mod soul” sides. You just can’t listen to this record without visions of sweaty Englishmen (and their birds) doing the flip, flop and fly at a vintage allnighter. ‘I’ll Try’ is a new favorite of mine, and I hope you dig it.