arthur alexander

Instruments: Vocals, Songwriter
Date of Birth: 5/10/1940
Place of Birth: Florence, Alabama
Date of Death: 6/9/1993

Walk of Fame Star

2005 Inductee Alabama Music Hall of Fame

During the early Sixties, Arthur Alexander wrote a famous clutch of compact, well-crafted country-soul songs. Stories of inconstant love and private gloom, they were covered by The Beatles - 'Anna', The Rolling Stones 'You Better Move On' and more recently, Ry Cooder-'Go Home Girl'. Alexander, wrote Michael Gray, introduced the word "girl" as in 'I wanna tell you girl..." to common lyric Parlance, greatly to the convenience of John Lennon and others thereafter. Other artists who have covered Arthur's songs include The Bee Gees, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner and a host of black vocal groups including The Tams, The Fiestas and The Drifters. In addition, a generation of British R & B bands were raised on Alexander's original versions of' ‘Where Have You Been' and 'A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues' The Beatles also recorded 'Where Have You Been' and 'Soldier Of Love'. Arthur sang his precise, geometric songs with a dark and wholly individual intensity; his languorous understatement, that sense of emotion only barely concealed, has always defied accurate attempts at imitation. In short, his sadly underrated singing is as memorable as his uncommonly interesting songs.

Arthur Alexander Jnr. was born on 10 May 1940 in Florence, Alabama on the Tennessee River which separates Florence from Sheffield and Muscle Shoals. The rural community echoed to the sounds of down-home music. His mother and sister sang in church while his guitarist-father played gospel songs using the neck of a whiskey bottle for a slide. On Saturday nights, Alexander Snr. played the blues in the hot, dusty juke-joints around Sheffield.

In the sixth grade Alexander Jnr. joined a gospel group, The Heartstrings: the other members were older and so, apart from local dates, they usually appeared without him. On leaving high school, he worked as a bellhop at the Sheffield Hotel. Everyone tells a different version of Arthur's first excursions into the studio. He spoke of being introduced to Tom Stafford, a Sheffield lyricist, by a friend: Rick Hall thought Alexander's mother worked for Stafford's family as a maid. Arthur supplied melodies to Stafford's lyrics and the pair worked from a room above a Florence drugstore owned by Stafford's father. Donnie Fritts who thought Stafford had auditioned the Heartstrings and picked out Arthur - played guitar and piano on the demos. Rick Hall used the same premises as an office: he and Billy Sherrill, members of a rock 'n' roll combo, The Fairlanes, dispensed advice and wisdom.

In 1958, Alexander and Henry Lee Bennett wrote "She Wanna Rock" which Stafford and Hall published under the now renowned banner of Fame, an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises. Stafford took the song to Decca in Nashville where it was recorded by the Manitoba-based C & W singer, Amie Derksen in April 1959 (it was released here on MCA's 'Rare Rockabilly' series in 1977). The following year, Stafford and Alexander wrote " Sally Sue Brown" which he recorded on a two track machine in Stafford's studio. On this occasion Stafford took the tape to Memphis where Judd Phillips released it under the name of June Alexander: Arthur was known to all as June, short for Junior.

The Judd record, a lowdown blues as gutbucket as Arthur would get, fired everyone's enthusiasm. Rick Hall bought a tobacco warehouse in Muscle Shoals, lined the walls with egg crates and installed a four-track recorder. It was there, in the summer of 1961, that Alexander recorded 'You Better Move On'. The repercussions were enormous. Apart from being the finest record to come out of an admitted less than enthralling year, it featured the first of the piney woods' black singer/country band combinations which dominated the hey-day of late Sixties soul. The band, known as Dan Penn and the Pallbearers, (they traveled in a hearse), contained David Briggs (piano), Jerry Carrigan (drums) and 18 year-old Norbert Putnam (bass). According to Putnam, ‘You Better Move On' was their first session for Rick Hall. Donnie Fritts and Dan Penn also point to the presence of Forrest Riley and Terry Thompson, who wrote the flip side 'A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues'. "Our entire orientation was R&B" said Putnam later," we were strictly young kids who loved soul music". These pickers, Alabama boys barely out of high school, became the nucleus of the most prestigious and sought-after session men in Nashville. moreover, their legacy, that distinctive Southern rhythm section of clipped guitar, sparse bass and drums all recorded open-miked with the amplifiers low, would help to make Muscle Shoals the soul capital of the world.

Rick Hall dubbed backing vocals onto 'You Better Move On' and took the tape to Nashville where it was rejected by almost every A&R man including Chet Atkins at RCA-Victor. Finally, he ran into Noel Ball, local disc-jockey and Nashville representative for Dot Records. Ball, once a member of the Crescendos, signed a tape-lease deal and subsequently produced Arthur himself." I got 2%" Hall recalled in 1973." Because of my lack of knowledge about contracts I never got to produce another side with Arthur. That act was stolen from me. Nonetheless 'You Better Move On' was a hit (No 24 in 1962) and Hall's 2% amounted to $10,000 which helped him launch a new studio where he eventually recorded some two dozen million-sellers including Aretha Franklin's first major hit.

In Ball's hands, Alexander's recordings took a more commercial turn which paid off when the follow-up 'Where Have You Been', a Barry Mann-Cynthia Well song, reached the top 60. 'Anna', Alexander's own composition, provided a third Hot 100 entry and his only Top 10 R&B hit ‘Go Home Girl', his most compassionate song, merely peaked at No 102 in January 1963, the year in which most of his royalties came from Steve Alaimo's hit version of another Alexander composition 'Every Day I Have To Cry'. Few people heard such an equally rewarding song as his fine interpretation of C&W favorite like 'Detroit City'. In April 1966, Alexander came to Britain where his tour took in appearances at the Ram-Jam Club and the Flamingo. A tall, awkward figure with slightly Oriental features, he stood onstage for 30 minutes, sang ‘lf I Had A Hammer', looked at his watch and marched off in mid-song. A Marquee appearance was, if anything, less charismatic. He sang '(Baby) For You', his first record under a new contract with Sound Stage 7; the audience, however, had come to see the Action, and reserved their applause for the lead singer's pink trousers.

Although Monument's Sound Stage 7 persevered for 4 years, Arthur was not equipped to handle success. We don't know why, as neither he, nor his associates have ever talked directly about his problems, although Alexander has referred to a lengthy illness which seriously affected the quality of his work. Apart from an unissued session for ABC-Dunhill, he disappeared until 1972 when he went to Memphis to record an album for Warner Bros.

A return to Muscle Shoals brought forth a pop hit on Buddah with 'Every Day I Have To Cry Some' (No 45 in 1975) but the renaissance was short-lived. He appeared on Music Mill with a tribute to Elvis in 1977 and shared a Koala album with Carl Perkins in 1979.

As Alexander began a comeback in 1993, he died of a heart attack. However , the album he completed before his death, "Lonely like Me," is a gentle record that is a fine way to end his career.
--BILL MILLAR 1982

Source: ACE Cd "Arthur Alexander-The Greatest"/ Alabama Music Hall of Fame

 

Arthur Alexander (May 10, 1940 – June 9, 1993), born in Sheffield, Alabama, was perhaps one of the biggest stars to arise out of the American country soul scene. Jason Ankeny, music critic for Allmusic, said Alexander was a "country-soul pioneer" and though largely unknown, "his music is the stuff of genius, a poignant and deeply intimate body of work on par with the best of his contemporaries."[1]

Working with Spar Music in Florence, Alabama, Alexander recorded his first single; "Sally Sue Brown" which was released in 1960 on Jud Phillips' Judd Records. (Phillips is the brother of music pioneer Sam Phillips).

A year later, Alexander cut "You Better Move On" at a former Tobacco Warehouse-turned-Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals. Released on Nashville's Dot Records, the song became a Soul/R&B chart hit, and laid the foundation for the modern recording studio FAME. "You Better Move On" is perhaps Alexander's best-known song, covered by The Rolling Stones, the Hollies, George Jones & Johnny Paycheck and Mink DeVille. "Anna (Go to Him)", a U.S. R&B Top Ten Hit, was covered by The Beatles and Humble Pie. The Beatles also did live recordings of "Soldier of Love", which was also performed by Marshall Crenshaw and Pearl Jam, "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues", and "Where Have You Been" recorded live at the Star Club, in Hamburg, 1962. "Set Me Free" (covered by Esther Phillips and Joe Tex) were also major hits and established Alexander as a pioneering arranger of others' tunes, as well as an established songwriter in his own right.

In the mid-1960s, Alexander switched to another label, Sound Stage 7, but failed to find commercial success. Although a 1972 album for Warner Brothers was promising, the singer's potential seemed to wither. He secured a pop hit with "Every Day I have to Cry" on Buddah Records 1975, but the success remained short-lived. The fine follow-up single "Sharing The Night Together" (written by Muscle Shoals songwriters Ava Aldridge and Eddie Struzick) reached #92 on the R&B charts, but earned Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show a Top Ten in 1978.

For many years, Alexander was out of the music business; he was a bus driver for much of this time. In 1990, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He began to perform again in 1993 as renewed interest was shown in his small but important catalogue. His last album Lonely Just Like Me was his first in 21 years. He signed a new recording/publishing contract in May 1993 but suffered a fatal heart attack the following month, three days after performing in Nashville with his new band.

Alexander deserves a special mention in pop and rock history for his particular influence, as indicated, on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. It is believed that John Lennon, in particular, was heavily influenced by Alexander's singing style. The above-mentioned tracks such as "Anna", "You Better Move On", and "Soldier of Love", in particular, but maybe also "Go Home Girl" might confirm this artist's influence on the Beatles and, if the listener needs further convincing, "You Better Move On", also recorded by the Rolling Stones. Arthur Alexander is the only songwriter whose songs have been covered by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan (who covered "Sally Sue Brown" on his 1988 LP "Down In The Groove.") As further evidence of his influence, "Go Home Girl" was also recorded by the eclectic master Ry Cooder on his groundbreaking 1979 album Bop Till You Drop.

 

Discography (USA issues except where noted)

Singles

"Sally Sue Brown/"The Girl That Radiates That Charm" Judd (1960)

"You Better Move On"/"A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" Dot (1961) London (UK) (1962)

"Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms)"/"Where Have You Been All My Life" Dot (1962) London (UK) (1962)

"Anna"/"I Hang My Head And Cry" Dot (1962) London (UK) (1963)

"Go Home Girl"/"You're the Reason" Dot (1962) London (UK) (1963)

"Dream Girl"/"I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" Tina Knittel (1963)

"Baby, Baby"/"Pretty Girls Everywhere" Dot (1963)

"Where Did Sally Go"/"Keep Her Guessing" Dot (1963)

"Old John Amos"/"Black Night" Dot (1964) London (UK) (1964)

"Detroit City"/"You Don't Care" Dot (1965)

"Baby For You"/"The Other Woman (In My Life)" Sound Stage (1966) London (UK) (1966)

"Show Me The Road"/"Turn Around (And Try Me)" Sound Stage (1966)

"Love's Where Life Begins"/"Set Me Free" Sound Stage (1968)

"I Need You Baby"/"Spanish Harlem" Monument (1968)

"Bye Bye Love"/"Another Time, Another Place" Sound Stage (1968)

"Cry Like A Baby"/"Glory Road" Sound Stage (1969)

"I'm Coming Home"/"It Hurts To Want It So Bad" Warner Brothers (1972)

"Burning Love"/"It Hurts To Want It So Bad" Warner Brothers (1972)

"Mr John"/"You've Got Me Knockin'" Garry Fink (1972)

"Lover Please"/"They'll Do It Every Time" Warner Brothers (1973)

"Every Day I Have To Cry Some"/"Everybody Needs Someone To Love" Buddah (1975) Buddah (UK) (1976)

"Sharing The Night Together"/"She'll Throw Stones At You" Buddah (1976) Buddah (UK) (1977)

"Hound Dog Man's Gone Home"/"So Long Baby" Music Mill (1977)

EPs

"Alexander The Great" (1963) London (UK)

"Arthur Alexander" (1963) London (UK)

Albums

LPs

You Better Move On (1962) Label: Dot & London (UK)

Arthur Alexander (1972) Label: Warner Brothers

Story Of Rock 'N' Roll (1977) Label: Ariola (Germany) (Reissue of "You Better Move On" LP)

Arthur Alexander (1989) Label: Ace (UK)

CDs

You Better Move On (1993) Label: MCA (1994) MCA (UK) (Reissue of LP with bonus tracks)

Lonely Just Like Me (1993) Label: Nonesuch/Elektra

Rainbow Road: The Warner Bros. Recordings (1994) Label: Warner Archives (Reissue of Warner LP above with bonus tracks)

Lonely Just Like Me: The Final Chapter (2007) Label: Hacktone (Reissue of CD with bonus tracks)

Compilation albums

LPs

Various Artists - Greatest Rhythm And Blues Stars (1965) Label: Guest Star (2 tracks by Arthur Alexander)

Carl Perkins - Sing A Song With Me (1979) Label: Koala (4 demos by Arthur Alexander)

A Shot Of Rhythm And Soul (1982) Label: Ace (UK)

Soldier Of Love (1987) Label: Ace (UK)

CDs

The Greatest (1989 & 2006) Label: Ace (UK)

The Ultimate Arthur Alexander (1993) Label: Razor & Tie

Jon Tiven's Ego Trip - Blue Guru (1996) Label: Fountainbleu (1 over-dubbed demo by Arthur Alexander)

Various Artists - Bill Haney's Atlanta Soul Brotherhood (1998) Label: Kent (UK) (1 track by Arthur Alexander)

Various Artists - Bill Haney's Atlanta Soul Brotherhood Vol 2 (1998) Label: Kent (UK) (1 track by Arthur Alexander)

The Monument Years (2001) Label: Ace (UK)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Alexander

 

 

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