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Friday, July 24, 2009

ROLLIN' ANOTHER NUMBER

Once, in talking about collecting records with Apothecary Hymns bassist Rob Fellman, he made an astute remark which I’ve always agreed with: “You can’t really go wrong with albums on Atco and Atlantic.” Certainly, all of the classics are worth repeated listens. But Attlantic, under the funky purview of Jerry Wexler and the Ertegun Brothers, had lots of undiscovered diamonds, especially in the rural rock coal mines.

There’s no better example of both the underground cred and above-ground appeal of the Atlantic catalog than B. Lance’s Rolling Man [Atlantic SD7218, 1972]. Bob Lance was a songwriter first, scoring serious soul cred by penning Aretha's hit "The House That Jack Built" (also on Atlantic). But other than that, and the album’s personnel listed on the back, you’d be hard-pressed to find out anything more, even armed with matrix numbers and Google’s search engine. The only other connection to anything tangible is guitarist Kenny Mimms’ name being mixed in with Duane Allman’s in relation to Muscle Shoals recording sessions. Certainly, one listen to this, Lance's only full length, proves that the B. Lance wasn't lacking in white rural R&B pedigree.

And Rollin’ Man definitely has an Allman aftertaste to it, but as an album, I kind of enjoy it more than, say, Idlewild South. It’s raucous but understated, less histrionic, and feels completely authentic. Groovier than the Stones and grittier than the Faces, the Lance band gets right down to business and doesn't stop til the last note, cooking up a gurgling gumbo of southern harmonies, overdriven guitar leads, white gospel and wailing organ. The simple arrangements belie the attention to detail and depth of sound – check out the rave-up on “Something Unfinished”, or the simmering Saturday night vibe of kinda-title track "John The Rollin' Man”. The ballads are all tastefully executed and never a drag, although if I had my druthers, the album would end on another rocker rather than the subdued blues of "Tribute To A Woman".

Drummer Jimmy Evans sounded familiar, but there are so many freakin' musicians by that name, I can't tell if he's the Nashville singer/songwriter, the rockabilly revival king, or someone completely different. Can't even get much info from a production credit, because Lance,arranged and produced it all himself! But you know what? I’m glad I don’t know anything about this one. It kind of gives it its own little mystery and makes me excited to think about that good ol’ Rollin' Man rumblin' back onto my turntable.


9 comments:

Kenny Mims said...

Hey there, my buddy was just talking about this post.
regarding B. Lance "Rollin' Man".

Well, here's everythiing you'll probably ever care to know.

I'm Kenny Mims, and it was my first professional gig. I was only 18 at the time. (1971-72).

The guy I was just talking to was Dick Bunn. He was the bass player, and we're still good friends after all these years.

I got this job right out of high school. I'm from Muscle Shoals and was prone to hanging out with the local
studio guys (when they'd let me). I made friends with a guy named Tippy Armstrong, who played guitar with
the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm section (along with Eddie Hinton, Wayne Perkins and Pete Carr plus others.

They were hot as a firecracker at the time and worked constantly. They had done an album with a guy from New York
earlier that year (1971)(Bobby Lance-A Separate Peace), and at release time he tried to hire studio guys as his band.
(which was out of the question for them).

One day while hanging out (and possibly smoking one of the left handed cigarettes), Tippy aasked me if I wanted a gig.
"Gig ... gee... never had one before" (I was still in high school)

He referred me, and Bobby came down and auditioned me... and I got the gig! I'd never really been anywhere, and
a couple of weeks after my 18th birthday I was off to New York... skyscrapers and everything.

And 'local guy' named Jimmy Evans (from Iron City, TN) was hired as the drummer so we drove up together.
He was a good bit older and much more experienced. I think he must have been mid-30's.

Well, next thing I know I'm introduced to Dick Bunn, who had moved from Chicago (bass player), and little spindly
Mitch Kerper, a Jewish jazz piano player from from Manhattan. I think Dick was about 30, and Mitch was maybe 23.

What an unusual combination of persons and musical backgrounds.

Bobby Lance was way off into the soul music thing and played a "deadly" rhythm guitar. Simple but with impact
like getting hit by a train.

Jimmy Evans played drums pretty much in the Roger Hawkins style. He played guitar too (better than me I thought)

Dick Bunn's dad was a professional bass player in Chicago, so Dick had been there, done it, seen it, and played it for many years.
He was the first really consummate musician I ever met. Lord oh lord was he terrific.

Then there was Mitch. He was a jazzer and oh how he could play. I know I drove him crazy as I didn't know the first thing
about jazz (or music in general really).

Then there was skinny little me. Like 125 pounds skinny. I had no clue about anything. I guess I grew up real quick.

Kenny Mims said...

PART TWO:
If you're are still reading along, I might mention (in my own defense) there may have been at least one attribute that
worked in my favor... I was hoping I could play studio guitar one day, so I would "do like and be like" the pro guys
I had met in Muscle Shoals. Eddie Hinton always played (electric) a Les Paul standard with the heaviest strings he could find.
He'd use a Twin Reverb and play it as loud as possible, just up to the distortion point. Naturally I did the same.

Well... in guitar world that translates to a monstrously huge tone. A single note would knock you down. Big and FAT.
I think the guys really liked that.

So as the story goes, Bobby was close friends with Gerry Wexler, and Atlantic agreed to pay us a salary while we worked up the band,
and developed the arrangements in preparation for a new album. We rehearsed every day at Atlantic Studio "B" @ 60th & Broadway.

Maybe three or four months later it was announced the studio was scheduled and we would actually be recording.

The sessions were at Atlantic studio "A". The album was produced by a guy named Geoff Haslam, who had produced Cactus,
as well as quite a number of jazz record.

It was my first time in the studio, but as we had been rehearsing for months everything went quite smoothly, except that
I discovered there were lots of guitar amps in the building and I had to try 'em all. Drove everybody nuts, but I believe I captured
quite an innovative array of sounds during the process.

Everything seemed like a dream coming true. I knew we were gonna be big stars and bla bla bla.

When the album was finally done... well... so was the salary. We tried to work a little bit, rake and scrape, and basically starve.
I seem to remember that Bobby became 'out of sorts' , and since he still had writer royalties coming in from "House That Jack Built",
he didn't seem too eager to explore the possibility of getting us a gig.

About June of 1972, the "southern guys" had to bail out back to Alabama. The gig was up, but the memory was for a lifetime.

Epilog:
Where are they now? And what have they been doing?

As I said, I am still often with Dick Bunn. He moved back to Chicago sometime in the 80's. He still plays regularly (at 67).
As a matter of fact he still plays the same P-bass he bought new in 1959.

I think Jimmy Evans lives in Sheffield and still plays around in various club gigs and maybe a session or two.
I talk with him every year or so.

I never stayed in touch with Mitch Kerper after the band, but Bobby did, and unfortunately I believed he passed away around 1990.

Then there Bobby. We always stayed in touch, and sometime during the 80's he came and visited me in Nashville.
We used to talk every 6 months or so. He ultimately became a music school teacher, but always continued to play an occasional
bar mitzvah or two. Strangely, as of this writing (March 2009) Bobby has dropped off the radar... for maybe a year now.
If anybody knows, sing out!

Then there is that skinny guitar player (me). As I said earlier, I wished to play studio guitar one day.
Let's see now. I ain't so skinny anymore that's for sure. After a few years back in Muscle Shoals, I moved to Atlanta
and played on literally everybody's record. From Paul Davis, Starbuck, Mylon LeFevre, disco records, gospel records, rock records,
and on and on. We even cut "Born To Be Alive" in Atlanta. Plus countless jingles and film works... and WKRP!

I moved to Nashville in 1980. Maybe check ALLMUSIC.COM for all the fine mess I've made up here.

I'm a motion designer for video and television now.

There you have it!

Aleph.Mem.Shin said...

THANK YOU KENNY! What a great way to fill in the story of this wonderful & little-known album. I'm glad to have it in my collection, & hope that everyone can share in the great work that was preserved on wax... All best & take care, AMS

Serge Van Baelen said...

Hello !

Very nice comments on this article !
I am a fan of all the music which comes from the Muscles Shoals and I just discover Bobby Lance.
The link to the LP seems dead. Any chance to get it back?
Thanks anyway for the interesting info.

Serge

Aleph.Mem.Shin said...

Hi Serge,
Thanks for the comment! Here is a link that should be working (not sure why the other one is dead)

http://www.mediafire.com/?wkymnjmdjd3

Hope you like some of the other stuff on the blog, please let me know of any other inoperative links if you can't listen to something you like!

Warmest,
AMS

MattyGroves said...

It is a wonderfull musician, a great singer. Thank you so much for the post,it's a masterpiece: harmony , rhythm . His voice is black like coal.

MattyGroves said...

Thank you so much for this post: it's a masterpiece. Great musicians, great voices.I really lovee this record, had listen this for many times ago and now you gave us the opportunity to listen again.
Thank you so much.

Lisa Richard said...

Hey Kenny,
You lived across the street from me back in 1972 when you were in New York. You were with a group of people renting a house in the midst of 70's suburbia! Someone owned an old school bus. The neighborhood saw that "there are hippies living in that house"! Then you guys invited the neighbors to a party and everything was cool after that!
My brother still lives on that street in a different house.

Lisa from White Plains

Lisa R said...

Hey Kenny,
I enjoyed reading about your time in New York during your first gig. In fact, you lived in a house across the street from me! You and your friends rented a house in the middle of '70s suburbia. Someone there owned an old school bus. Did someone else own a yellow Vega? I might be hallucinating about the vehicles! Anyway, congratulations on all of your successes in life!

Lisa from White Plains