Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson - Soulshake
Peggy & Jo Jo, about to get their Soulshake on.
Greetings one and all. Friday is here, the weekend is upon us, and it’s 80 freakin’ degrees in New Jersey. The antibiotics that the doctor prescribed for me have gone to war with, and subdued the dreaded strep germs, and I’m actually feeling pretty good for the first time in three days. In honor of the firm encroachment of NJ’s famous, almost-Spring/almost-Summer quasi-season (you really have to live here to know what I’m talking about), I’ve reserved space in today’s entry for a rump-shaker of the first magnitude. I first encountered today’s selection back in the 80’s when I was first started buying CDs in earnest, and unfortunately sold a bunch of vinyl at bargain basement prices to finance the project. I’m ashamed to admit how many choice LPs I let go at the time. I’ll only take time to say (with a whimper), “Larry Williams and Johnny Guitar Watson, come home to Papa…” So, as I was spending a lot of dough on digital biscuits, and there wasn’t a tremendous amount of variety available at the time, when I saw a soul collection (on K-Tel no less) that featured some old faves and a couple of things that were new to me, I had to grab it. I don’t remember the exact title (and I’m not about to start digging for it right now, but it was something like ‘Sixties Soul Party’. When I first put it on (marveling like some kind of rube at the “crystal clear sound”), the track that hit me the hardest was one of the unfamiliar ones, ‘Soulshake’ by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson, and it’s been a favorite ever since then. At the time, Scott and Benson were completely unknown to me. If I knew then how many copies of ‘Lovers Holiday’ I’d flip past in the ensuing years I could have saved myself a lot of time. ‘Soulshake’* grabbed me from the opening bars with a thumping bass entwined with a buzzing electric sitar. Things really got dangerous when Peggy and Jo Jo dropped in and the drummer started bashing away. It’s one of those records, were you to spin it in a morgue, the stiffs would start tapping their feet. Things get even cooler when the pedal steel guitar (that’s right, I said pedal steel guitar…) comes in, giving the whole affair a really interesting flavor. Jo Jo Benson (born Joseph Ewell) was a 27 year old veteran performer in 1968 when he first paired up with 17 year old Peggy Scott. They were discovered by Shelby Singleton (he, the SSS in the SSS Intl. Label), and first recorded by legendary/notorious producer Huey P. Meaux (aka the Crazy Cajun). Meaux produced their first few singles – including the aforementioned ‘Lover’s Holiday’ – but it as Singleton himself that took the duo to Nashville and recorded ‘Soulshake’. Singleton employed local session players, including steel guitar legend Pete Drake on ‘Soulshake’ and the combination of rocking soul and down-home twang made for pure dynamite. I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that it sounds exactly like Marvin and Tammi’s bus broke down outside of Music City and they did a gig with the Good Ole Blues Brothers Boys Band, but to deny that there’s just a touch of that flavor there would be foolish. As I said before, ‘Soulshake’ is a certified, deep-fried, butt-wiggling, other-stuff-jiggling party starter, and in the spirit of an earlier rant, quite affordable, so that even the greenest turntable manipulator out there can secure their own copy and spring it on a somnolent and unsuspecting audience, rousing them from their stupor and whipping them into a sweaty soul frenzy, and when you think of it, isn’t that why we do what we do (it’s why I do what I do)**. Peggy & Jo Jo recorded a number of 45s and two LPs for SSS Intl. And then moved on briefly to ATCO before breaking up in 1971. The pair reunited briefly in the early 80’s, and both have recorded as solo acts since then.
I just got this correction from Brian Poust from the great Georgia Soul Recordings website:
"Shelby Singleton, while an astute businessman to be sure, does not get credit for discovering Peggy Scott & Jo Jo. Rather, it was Columbus GA radio DJ/promotor/record store owner Ed "Dr. Jive" Mendel who first released Jo Jo Benson's "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye" single and was managing Benson. The duo with Peggy Scott who had been performing at the C'estbon night club, and the "Mr. Starlight" single on Mendel's Peggy Sue label had just been picked up for national distribution by SSS. Mendel told Singleton about Peggy Scott and Jo Jo (he was managing them) and Singleton picked them up and recorded the hit "Lover's Holiday" shortly therafter.More info. here. Scroll to the bottom for a picture of Mendel, Peggy Scott, Jo Jo and other local DJs with their "Lover's Holiday" gold record!"
Thanks Brian! *The tune was written by Myra Smith and Margaret Lewis. By the late 60’s Smith, who previously owned the Shreveport label Ram Records (for which Lewis recorded rockabilly and swamp pop sides) and Lewis had relocated to Nashville to work as songwriters. Aside from ‘Soulshake’, Smith and Lewis also wrote ‘Reconsider Me’ which was recorded by a number of soul and country singers, but saw it’s biggest hit with Johnny Adams on SSS Intl., and the underrated ballad ‘I Almost Call Your Name’ by Johnny Soul. **Plaese to excuse the run on sentence, but I felt to break the feeling up with periods would wreck the vibe.