Resident Guitarists with Soul Groups

SoulfulDetroit.com FORUM: Archive - After July 12, 2003: Resident Guitarists with Soul Groups
Top of pageBottom of page   By JSmith (195.93.50.10) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 01:49 am:

Can anyone here answer this question.....
Was the (common?) soul group practise of having a 'resident' guitarist -- groups who did that spring to mind include the Tempts, Miracles, Hesitations, Artistics, Falcons, etc -- a feature borrowed from gospel quartets.
I have recently come across a number of photos of gospel quartets fom the 50's where they had a 'resident' guitarist.
ALSO (I have already asked Bobby Eli; off forum), ....Dennis Coffey, did you ever occupy such a position and if so, with which groups (for say the duration of a tour or even longer) ??

Top of pageBottom of page   By Dennis Coffey (152.163.252.68) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 07:29 am:

Hi JSmith. The only time I did that type of gig was when I was part of a soul group in Jr. High. There were five singers and me on electric guitar. We performed at a few events at school.

Top of pageBottom of page   By R&B (138.238.41.118) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 11:00 am:

REMEMBER THAT MARVIN TARPLIN WAS WITH THE PRIMETTES UNTIL SMOKEY[BORROWED]HIM FOR A ROAD TRIP AND THE REST IS HISTORY,HAVING A GUITARIST MEANS A LIVE INSTRUMENT FOR REHERSALS WHICH IS ALWAYS A PLUS,BESIDES A GUITAR IS ALOT EASIER TO CARRY THAN A PIANO.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli (141.151.62.121) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 11:14 am:

Hi JS,

In addition to what I have said in my E mail
yes, the origin stems from the Gospel quartets whereby they depended on their guitarist to guide the church organist or trio on hand and as a result, the practice carried over into the r&b groups who played the "chittlin circuit" and all of the soul and later, pop venues.
The guitar was the instrument of choice at the time because of its amplification possibillities as there were no electric pianos and usually the pianos which were in house were inferior.

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo (64.115.26.80) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 11:50 am:

JS:
Bobby Eli is right on the money with his explaination. If I may add....
When the gospel groups went on tour(as many did during the 1930s through 1960s), it was easier to have a guitarist with them because many churches & venues (especially through the rural south) didn't even have pianos or organs - which is why many church choirs sang acapella. Therefore, it was a necessity to have an accompanist who carried their own instrument(s) - which in this case was the guitar.

Many gospel recordings that were made during the 1940s contained guitar accompaniment.

Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By RD (65.150.228.5) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 12:22 pm:

When the Spinners traveled outside of Detroit to work small clubs during their Tri-Phi days they didn't have a guitarist. Harvey Fuqua traveled with them and accompanied them on the piano on the premise. If they did a gig on a show with other groups they would use the house band with Harvey on piano.

Resident guitarists had to be the worse gig in music. Only a few made a name for themselves: Curtis Mayfield, Marv Tarplin and Cornelius Grant. And to a much lesser extent Terry Johnson (Flamingos).

I guess it was idea for a young guy who wanted to travel but if you were the resident guitarist for say the Artistics, you didn't travel or gig enough to make a living. Bernard Reed was always pictured with the Artistics holding an axe but his main gig was in the studio. If you were with a group like the Temptations or the O'Jays when they became popular it was a good gig, but O'Jays' resident guitarist, the late Russell Evans, endured some lean years before the good gigs happened.

Resident guitarist, however, are one of the best sources of info about a group, particularly the personalities, they know them like few do.

Top of pageBottom of page   By KevGo (64.115.26.80) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 12:27 pm:

RD:
Bernard Reed played selected gigs with the Artistics during their heyday (this according to lead singer Marvin Smith). The cover of their 1966 Brunswick album "I'm Gonna Miss You" contains a photo taken of the group at a gig - Bernard is facing the band.
Kevin Goins - KevGo

Top of pageBottom of page   By RD (65.150.228.5) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 12:30 pm:

I know he did Kevgo. Never said he didn't. My point was that with groups like the Artistics you didn't get enough work to survive. His main gig was in the studio. He also played with anyone who needed him. He actually played more for Tyrone Davis and Syl Johnson then the the Artistics.

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli 6 strings (141.151.62.121) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 02:20 pm:

Some groups paid their musicians a retainer when they were off. Such was the case when I was the "resident guitarist" with the Vibrations.
It wasnt such a bad gig at all.

BTW, in the world of the soul and r&b acts, the term "resident guitarist" or even "guitarist" did not exist, as it was always "gittar player" with the emphasis on the first syllable or "git man."

Also, I was not aware that Russel Evans had pased on. he was a fine "git man"

Also, Melvin Terrell, who was my late wife's first cousin was Mary Wells long time guitarist.

Top of pageBottom of page   By RD (65.150.228.40) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 02:39 pm:

I guess you were one of the lucky ones Eli. I'm speaking of the sixties and groups that didn't have a lot hits. The O'Jays or the Artistics couldn't pay themselves a retainer when they were off let alone their git player. I also don't like the term "resident guitarist."

Traveling in a station wagon with four or five guys for hundreds of miles to a gig and not knowing if you were going to make it, and if you did, not knowing whether you were gonna get paid, is not my idea of fun but everybody is different. I don't see how so many remained in the gig as long as they did. Kinda hard to keep a marriage together; plus, no hospitalization, social security, etc.

Of course, if you worked for the Temptations, the Supremes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, etc. the pay and accomodations were much better and the gig was a good one. Conditions got better in the seventies for all git players and road musicians.

Russell Evans passed about two-three years ago. He began with Charles Hatcher (Edwin Starr) in the Futurtones but was with the O'Jays from the beginning of their Imperial recordings. He resembles Cornelius Grant (the Tempts' ex git player) and many thought the two were brothers.

Top of pageBottom of page   By WaltB (205.188.209.109) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 03:04 pm:

Outside of his obvious skills as a guitar player, Russell Evans was a fine example of a down-to-earth "good brother."

Top of pageBottom of page   By RD (65.150.228.40) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 03:07 pm:

Right On, Walt

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli (141.151.62.121) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 04:07 pm:

I had the pleasure of meeting Russell and the O'jays in 1967 at the Apollo when I started with the Vibrations, and yes he was a good brother.

Right before the Vibrations gig came about, I received a call from agent Norman Joyce who had a group from upstate NY that needed a "git man."
I reluctantly accepted.
The group came down to Philly in a broken down station wagon with three of the members and a girlfriend and they had to fit me, Tiki Fullwood, who I got to play drums, and bass Player Ralph "Motown" Downs and all of our gear and suitcases into it.
On the way to the gig, about 45 miles from Philly the water pump blew.(it was winter)
We found a shop that could fix it but no one had any money and the only thing of real value was my brand new fender Super Reverb amp which I had to leave as collaterral in order for the job to be done.
After it was fixed we made it to Newburgh NY and a group member got the cash and went back down to NJ to pay the bill and retrieve my amp.
When we finally went on stage, three of my speakers were frozen due to the amp being left overnight in the heatless shop.
After about two and a half nights of what was to be a weeklong gig, they let us go..with no money.
We had hotel bills to pay, and Tiki and I shared a room so one of the group members pulled up to the back of the hotel where our fourth floor room was situated and we threw out bags out of the window to the waiting Volkswagen!!
He took us to the Greyhound station in NYC and somehow we made it back to Philly...on a wing and a prayer!!!!

The Vibrations then came along and saved the day.

That was the worst gig that I ever had.

Top of pageBottom of page   By RD (65.150.228.40) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 04:14 pm:

That's what I was referring to Eli. Stuff like that. Russell and others had hundreds of those horror stories.

Russell did session work too. He played on some of the Saru sessions and on some of the O'Jays' Imperial recordings, i.e. "Pretty Words."

Top of pageBottom of page   By douglasm (68.113.13.31) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 04:55 pm:

Question....
....most vocal groups I assume didn't tour with a complete band unless they were in a package show. In those cases, did the "resident guitar player" act as an arranger/conductor for the house band where they were playing?

Top of pageBottom of page   By Eli (141.151.62.121) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 05:10 pm:

Usually the group had "charts" of some kind that were passed around to the house band and their respective instruments and he would conduct the band as such.
Sometimes, in a package show ie, the Motortown Revue, the conducter, such as Choker Campbell of Maurice King would conduct for the entire show

The bandleader at the Apollo was reuben Phillips and at the Uptown, first there was Doc bagby and later Sam Reed and Leon Mitchell.

Sometimes, as at the Apollo the house guitarist would have a "scam" going on.
If a groups resident guitarist did not have his own amp he would charge them a "fee" of 15-20 dollars a week for using his amp..payable in advance.
It happened to me at tha Apollo the first time.
The second time wwhen the J5 opened the show< Tito graciously let me use his amp....gratis!!

Top of pageBottom of page   By Fury13 (12.2.196.17) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 09:08 pm:

I've seen quite a few vintage pics of old ('50s-era) R&B groups that showed one member holding a guitar. For example, the Coasters' guitarist, Adolph Jacobs, was an integral part of the group. His Gibson Les Paul even had "Coasters" painted on it (see the Coasters' Greatest Hits LP cover), although he is thought of more as a sideman rather than a group member. In Detroit, Bob "Chico" Edwards, a gifted guitarist, created much of the signature sound of Nolan Strong & the Diablos and was a full member of the group -- definitely not a sideman.

Top of pageBottom of page   By RD (65.150.229.134) on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 09:40 pm:

Curtis Mayfield was a full member of the Roosters/Impressions too.

Jimi Hendrix worked as the road guitar player for many artists including the Isley Brothers.

The O'Jays once used Dyke & his Blazers (before they had a hit record or had even recorded) as their road band for awhile. Dyke claims the O'Jays stranded them in Phoenix, AZ. Knowing that band though they probably found a club that offered them an extended residency and declined on moving on. The O'Jays were shocked and dismayed when the band hit with "Funky Broadway" shortly thereafter. The record was bigger than any of the recordings they (the O'Jays) had had at the time.

Dyke & the Blazers didn't like going from city to city every other day. After they hit with "Funky Broadway" and released other hit recordings they played a club on 105th Street here (Cleveland). It was suppose to have been a weekend gig...they stayed nearly two months.


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