Thursday, April 17, 2008


The Simms Twins, Soothe Me.
Bo Diddley, Pills.

Bo Diddley and Sam Cooke moonlighted as record producers: Diddley cut his own records at home, while Cooke ran his own independent label, SAR, with such assured taste that SAR could have become a rival to Stax/Volt had Cooke not died in 1964.

SAR, founded in 1959 with Cooke's friend J.W. Alexander, recorded gospel (Cooke's old group, the Soul Stirrers) and early soul, recording several up-and-coming musicians, including Billy Preston, Bobby Womack and Johnnie Taylor, Cooke's replacement in the Soul Stirrers. SAR was as bare-bones as you could get--a small Hollywood office with a few desks, a piano, and one employee (the songwriter Zelda Samuels).

The Simms Twins came out of a family gospel group, the Simms Brothers Sextet, who had released a few flopped singles in the early '50s. After the group fell apart, Bobby and Ken, the youngest of the six, found work as backup singers in various LA studios. Cooke used them on his hit "Cupid" and asked them back for a new song he was recording. Yet after Cooke listened to the brothers sing his "Soothe Me" (as backup for an unrecorded Cooke vocal), Cooke liked it so much he released the track as it was on SAR, as a Simms Twins solo single.

Released as SAR 117 c/w "I'll Never Come Running Back to You"--it was the label's biggest seller; on The SAR Records Story.

Bo Diddley, when he moved from Chicago to Washington, DC in the late '50s, built a home recording studio, where he cut most of LPs like Bo Diddley is a Gunslinger and many of his singles in the early '60s. One of the more offbeat records from this period was Diddley's "Pills," which doesn't feature the standard Diddley beat but was scuzzy enough to inspire a generation of punks.

Recorded in May '61 and released as Checker 985 c/w "Call Me"; on The Chess Box.

And both tracks are far better known in their cover versions: Sam and Dave's "Soothe Me,"from 1967 (Best Of) and the New York Dolls' "Pills," from their 1973 self-titled record.

Top: the rock & roll secretary, friend of the rock & roll nurse.

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