Bay City Rollin’

(Ed. note: A terrific guest post this week courtesy of O-Dub, well-known to many of you as the proprietor of the one best and longest-running music blogs out there, Soul Sides.)

I don’t remotely profess to have a very deep collection of Bay Area soul/funk 45s. I leave that to my friends like Justin Torres or Matthew Africa. That said, as the place where I spent 16 years living and more importantly, became a DJ, writer and record collector, I do feel an affinity with the soul tradition that came out there, especially given how so much of it flew under the proverbial radar for many years. I pulled out three selections: two recent acquisitions, the other an all-time favorite.

1. Sugar Pie DeSanto: The Whoopee (Brunswick)
No doubt, someone will astutely note: but uh, Brunswick wasn’t a Bay Area label. This is true but DeSanto was most definitely an artist who became associated with the Bay (even if she was born in the BK). Normally, I would have been tempted to post “Git Sum,” a fantastic track she put together for Oakland’s Jasman Records. However, I had never heard “The Whoopee” until recently and it’s another great soul cooker from her. Personally, I really want to see how this dance is done but as she says, we won’t really know how to do it until the Sugar Pie do (with mini-skirt no less). Yowzers.

** I just learned recently that Sugar Pie suffered a devastating loss: her house caught fire and her husband died trying to put it out. Not only has she lost her house but also her life partner. People are in the process of trying to set up a way for donations to get to her. More info available here. **

2. Eugene Blacknell: The Trip (Pts. 1 & 2) (Boola Boola)
The 7″ everyone used to want by Blacknell was “Gettin’ Down” and sure, it’s a good funk 45…”massive breaks,” that sort of thing. But in terms of the go-to 7″ I’d want to use in the middle of a DJ set, I’d grab “The Trip” first, every time. The elements here are superb: gutbucket guitar, a chomping bass, tireless drumming and that bank of horns that pushes the groove on, relentlessly. Did I also mention the “massive breaks” in the middle? The 45 has parts 1 and 2 split in half on the 7″ but I stitched them together to create a more seamless song.

3. Pi-R-Square: Fantasy (Pts 1 & 2) (Wee)
Hands down, not only my favorite Bay Area 7″ but possibly my favorite 45, period. For a long time, it was a Holy Grail single amongst collectors though in recent years, it’s become far less obscure but that hasn’t diminished its singular excellence one bit. I’ve tried to describe it before but it’s difficult to articulate just how sublimely awesome this whole single is. The way it builds, transforms, takes you on this nine minute trip that you never want to get off of.

–O-Dub (Soul Sides)

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20 Responses to Bay City Rollin’

  1. That Pi-R-Square 45 is a must-have. That heavy, druggy flavor actually reminds me a bit of San Antonio’s Mickey and Soul Generation on some of their more mental psychedelic jazz excurions of the late-’60s.

  2. Mr Fab says:

    I dug “The Trip” but “Fantasy” is the real trip. You actually did not exaggerate the excellence of it all – that elec. piano/fuzz guitar interplay around the 5 minute mark was particularly jaw-dropping.

    Did these guys record anything else?

  3. I only know a little of the Pi-R-Square story (maybe Oliver W. can better report on this?), but I seem to remember that this was a one-off studio session headed by Lonnie Hewitt, owner/founder of WEE records (and former pianist for Cal Tjader). The track is “jammy” (in the best possible way); it seems like there might be a couple of reels of tapes lying around from the session, but that nothing further was officially released on vinyl.

  4. O.W. says:

    Danny is basically correct. Pi-R-Square was a one-off by Lonnie Hewitt and some studio players but they never recorded anything else like this as a group and really, it’s pretty unique in general. There’s other jazz on Wee of course but nothing quite like “Fantasy.”

  5. Mr. Less says:

    Fantasy is mind numbingly beautiful. Thank you for your continued service for our listening pleasure

  6. DJ Danny, I think I love you! Thanks a million for putting this site together.

  7. Thank you Plymouth Rock – glad you found Office Naps! (And greetings to all Soul Sides readers, too – welcome to my obsessive corner of the universe.)

  8. spelunk says:

    Funny timing, I just picked up a copy of Is it Me (parts 1 & 2) by Lonnie Hewitt this weekend at a record show. Another great track on Wee, with an amazing intro.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic tracks, all of them.

  10. In the UK there’s a good monthly music magazine called ‘Word’ which I subscribe to, and an interviewee mentioned Officenaps. I’d never have found it otherwise! If the interview’s on their website I’ll post you the link.

  11. Ah, okay – I’m guessing that was Rob F. of Landcroft House who mentioned
    Office Naps over at ‘The Word,’ though I don’t believe it’s online, alas. Thanks P.R.!

  12. Rob says:

    Hey Plymouth Rock
    That was me – I am a huge fan of ON and have banged on about it in The Word. I even give it a plug on our latest podcast…
    Keep up the excellent work, Danny

  13. fliznoyd says:

    The horns on this song play a line from “harlem shuffle”. The part on that song where they do the ah hah aaaaaa-haaaah’s right before they sing “yes cmon baby across the flo’”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Rob, in that case, merci beaucoup to you too! There’s so much to love here, like the Peter Sarstedt and Phil Cordell tracks just to start with.

    What is your band and podcast again?? (I forgot).

    (Plymouth Rock)

  15. Rob says:

    I haven’t been in a band for a while, but I did used to be half of these chancers. I am now at Word and Landcroft House. The Word podcasts are available on iTunes…

    Great new post, Danny!

  16. ZubZub says:

    Just playing catch up here and noticed the Pi-R-Square single that I had unknowingly tossed up just the other night in a handful of singles here (though I only included Pt. 2 from the b-side ).

    Did you stitch this one together too? Sounds great!

    thanks again!

  17. Hi ZubZub, thanks for checking in from JuJu land; you’re right, Oliver magically stitched “Fantasy” together, thus doubling the whole psychedelic shebang. Technology!

  18. Justin says:

    Pir Square didnt record anything else but the Fantasy 45. there are no reels and ive never even been able to find out who was playing the music. Great record though.

    Lonnie had the Wee label together after he left Tjader. He recorded the Ballads, Freddie Hughes, Ernie Marbray (a very nice northern/soul ballad 45), Denise & Co (super rare garage 45), and his own 45s and LP. Lonnie produced Jazz Soul and Country music (he did a wild 45 for a Fresno group).

    If anyone needs a copy of the Fantasy 45 or is interested in any other Bay Area Soul music history please feel free to email me vinylarc@hotmail.com

    -Justin Torres

  19. tek says:

    This is my favorite blog, accessable, great music, rare, its everything! Thanks a million

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