Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Johnny Goode - Payback

Sidney Barnes (aka Johnny Goode)
far right, with the Rotary Connection

When you spend as much time chasing records as I have, you develop a mental inventory that allows you to make the occasional educated guess. One of the main aspects of this inventory is to keep track of labels that basically produced nothing but soul or funk music. That way, when you find one in the field (or on E-Bay), and you haven’t heard it (and all other signs are sufficiently promising) you can grab it safe in the knowledge that it’s worth grabbing, at least on a stylistic level. One such label is the classic (and aptly named) 60’s Detroit imprint Solid Hit. In its short two year history, there were only a dozen releases on Solid Hit, but some of them were absolute classics. Pat Lewis (one of the great singers of the era) recorded four of the twelve 45s on the label, including a great version of the Parliaments ‘Look at What I Almost Missed’ and the ultra-rare (and amazing) ‘No One to Love’. I recently grabbed another Solid Hit disc, by an artist that I had never heard, Johnny Goode. The price was right, and the presence of an instrumental dub on the b-side (always attractive to me) was a plus. When the record dropped through the mail slot, and onto the turntable, I knew that I’d made the right decision. So, as I always do, I start trying to track down info on the artist, and I discover that “Johnny Goode” was in fact the legendary Sidney Barnes. If the name Sidney Barnes isn’t familiar to you, go back and drag out some of your Detroit soul 45s. As part of the Geo-Si-Mik partnership (George Clinton, Sidney Barnes and Mike Terry) Barnes co-wrote and produced some of the finest mid-60’s Detroit soul sides on the Golden World, Ric-Tic and Solid Hit labels. Barnes got his start recording as a member of the Serenaders in the early 60’s, waxing sides for several labels, including Motown/VIP. He went solo in 1964, working as a songwriter/performer for the Red Bird/Blue Cat labels where he recorded under his own name for the first time. It was while working in New York City that he met George Clinton, who was himself working as a songwriter for Jobete publishing. Clinton and Barnes both made the move to Detroit in 1965, where the hooked up with Mike Terry. It was during that period that Barnes would record ‘Payback’. Though I have no definitive information, I can only assume that Barnes was recording under a pseudonym due to contractual obligations. The tune opens with a bright horn line before settling into a groove, with a solid 4/4 beat and a smooth vocal by Barnes. ‘Payback’ has a slightly funky edge to it (the congas are nice) and the chorus –
Payback’s a dog when it comes, ain’t it baby? Payback‘s a mean thing when it comes.... Payback’s a drag when it hits you ain’t it baby? Payback’s a mean son of a gun!
- is a gas. So, after I played the a-side a couple or five times, I decide to flip the disc over, and there, waiting for me on the b-side was a tasty organ-led version of the tune. I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but I’d be awfully (terribly, completely) surprised (pole-axed, stunned and bewildered) if it wasn’t head Funk Brother Earl Van Dyke providing the grooves here. Following his brief stint as “Johnny Goode”, Sidney Barnes would be recruited as one of the vocalists of Cadet Records new psychedelic soul group the Rotary Connection, alongside none other than Minnie Riperton. Barnes would go on to record several LPs with the group. He still records and performs today.
NOTE: A few readers wrote about Monday's mix and asked if it could also be provided as a ZIP file that contained separate tracks. I created/uploaded that file and added the link to Monday's post (below)


Blogger Leonard said...

The organist on the instrumental B-side of Payback is Lyman Woodard. Producer Don Davis called him one day in 1967 and asked him to dub an organ solo over the pre-recorded band track. Lyman told me this in the late '90's (I worked with him for the majority of 35 years until his death on February 24, 2009). I was glad to find out over all of those because I purchased the record in '67--the year of its release-and had no idea who was for years until Lyman revealed the mystery. Now the rest of the world knows too!!

Leonard King Jr.
Minneapolis, MN

1/02/2011 02:42:00 PM  

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