?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
JP1000

So much of how I see the world is tied in with Soul music. Not only has it been a voice of understanding in difficult times, it has also always been present as sort of the soundtrack to my life. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, there was always an abundance of great Soul music on the radio (unlike NYC which seems to have no close association with the music). And latching onto the music at a very young age, it’s impossible to a recall a time when it wasn’t an integral part of my life.

With the arrival of CD’s in the 1980’s, a lot of reissues of great Soul music was released that had been out of print for years (Joe Tex, James Carr, OV Wright, Howard Tate, Maxine Brown, etc.). But there have remained a number of artists and recordings that have yet to make it back into print.


                         



As I’ve said before, if I could trace my interest in Soul back to a single person it would be Sam Cooke – the man who most shaped the Soul music of the 1960's and beyond. And his stamp is clearly present on everyone from Aretha Franklin to Otis Redding to Al Green.

One artist who I know very little about, but who was clearly a disciple of Sam’s (and has also yet to be reissued since his debut over 40 years ago), was a man known simply as BABY RAY. It’s believed his full name was Ray Eddlemon, but on the only album he ever released, ‘WHERE SOUL LIVES’ on Imperial Records in 1966, there is very little information. I have never even seen a picture of Baby Ray, and have no idea how old he was or what he looked like. The album’s cover is also a wonderment in marketing. It’s a picture of the dilapidated front stairs of an old country house surrounded by overgrown weeds and other plant life (presumably this is where soul lives). It’s almost as if the manufacturer didn’t want anyone to buy this record. BUT inside is some of the coolest, mid-sixties pop-soul you’ll most likely NEVER hear!

             

The album begins with a cover of Big Jay McNeely’s 1958 R&B hit ‘THERE'S SOMETHING ON YOUR MIND’, in which Baby Ray incorporates one of my favorite singing techniques - the narration. After delivering the verse and chorus, he goes into a spoken word account of how the lead character finds his baby in the arms of another man in his OWN house, in HIS chair, eating HIS peanut butter and crackers! And in a fit of outrage proceeds to shoot them both! But, “then realizing what he’s done” he picks up his baby in his arms and says, “speak to me baby, what have I done”, to which she replies, in her “last dying breath” … “do-do-do-do-doo.. do-do-do-do-doo..”

I LOVE it!!

It’s a very short song, just a couple minutes, but it must have been a show-stopper to do live!

Next up is ‘HARPOON MAN’, a kick-ass, funky, mid-sixties, blues-harp-stomping little rocker. You can almost imagine sex-kittens-in-cages doing The Monkey to this one. While guys with Benjamin Braddock haircuts & wearing horn-rim shades bopped their heads saying things like, “I dig it, baby!” In other words, the kind of record that’s instantly likeable.

Next is ‘SADIE (THE AVON LADY)’. Every man’s fantasy of the hot chick that comes to your house unannounced and asks if she can come in.

               She’s a way out chick, man, she sure is slick

      
               <Ding-Dong>

     
                        "Avon calling"


Like ‘Harpoon Man’, this song just rocks from the opening note. When I hear a record like this, so well produced, with great singing and clever musical accompaniment, and know it went nowhere, and was most likely never even played on the radio, I realize just how much great music there was in the mid-sixties. If you were a soul act and trying to get any traction at the height of Motown and STAX, the odds must have seemed insurmountable.

The album continues with ‘MERCY HAVE PITY’ (a pleading love song), ‘WHEN ARE WE GONNA GET MARRIED’ (a tight rockin’ soul number), ‘VALLEY OF TEARS’ (the Fats Domino ballad), and other great tunes in the vein of pop-soul, blues-wailers, and sentimental ballads. All with the commanding and captivating voice of a singer who clearly was no novice – either to singing or to holding an audience. On side 2 when he covers the Hank Thompson country classic ‘THE WILD SIDE OF LIFE’, you (if you’re like me) want to know WHO the hell is this guy and WHAT the hell ever happened to him?!

One track from this album that I included on a mixed artists collection I listen to in my car is called ‘SAVING MY LOVE FOR YOU’. It’s a searing, slow-burning soul number in the tradition of Sam Cooke and Joe Tex. The kind of song that comes to mind over and over again like a beautiful memory.

The album closes with Chuck Berry’s ‘PROMISED LAND’, showing that Baby Ray isn’t just a soul man or sentimentalist, he’s also a straight up, old school rock n’ roller!

Baby Ray was clearly a man who had an appreciation for great music whether it was Soul, or Country, or Pop. And he delivered them all with a raspy and endearing voice, not unlike Joe Tex, full of sincerity and soulfulness that makes his lack of notoriety, and mysterious disappearance after one album, all the more bizarre.

I have seen on used record sites that he released one single outside of this album. A 45 containing one of my favorite Irma Thomas’ tunes, the Goffin & King ballad, ‘ Yours Until Tomorrow’. But that’s it. No other record, either musical or historic, can I find out about this guy. He put out one album, ‘Where Soul Lives’, and then vanished off the face of the earth.

Baby Ray, whatever happened to you, man? You were great!

                             




UPDATE - FEBRUARY 2012:

I was recently able to fill in some of the gaps on the life of Baby Ray Eddlemon.

First, the bad news: Ray Eddlemon passed away in 2000. He was serving time at Nevada State at the time of his passing (not sure exactly why he was imprisoned).

Second, I did find out some interesting facts on Ray from his son Michael. Below is a passage from one of our email exchanges. I'm not sure how much attention Michael or the Eddlemon family is interested in receiving, so I'm not releasing much information on them.

Third, Baby Ray was white. The truth can now be known. I have to confess, I did not think those pipes belonged to a white man!

Lastly, one of the most unexpected findings on Baby Ray is that he and Audie Murphy (the most decorated US soldier of WWII) were good friends & wrote several songs together!

From Michael Eddlemon (son of Baby Ray):


UPDATE - OCTOBER 2016:

Well, here's a MAJOR stroke of luck out of the blue!

First, I have to apologize for previously erring by identiying Baby
Ray Eddlemon's son's name as David when it is actually Michael Eddlemon (my mistake!).

Second, this week when Michael Eddlemon contacted me about the correction he very graciously sent me several picture's of his father, Baby Ray, which I had had never seen before and have posted below (I'm not sure how many people have EVER seen these!).

So, for those of you who have listened to, and loved, the album 'Where Soul Lives' as much as I have, I can FINALLY reveal what this gentleman looked like. Enjoy!





I am still very hopeful that someday a proper retrospective anthology of Baby Ray Eddlemon's work will be released. Hopefully, this posting is a step in the right direction!

 
 
Current Music: Where Soul Lives - Baby Ray