Regional Sounds

by Pat Jacobs
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You could say that Detroit's Motown Sound (The city also had a thriving rock sound that included Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, and The MC5) and the United Kingdom's British Invasion were (and still are) the '60s most famous examples of a regional sound that became an international sensation.

But there were several others that also made quite an impact; while perhaps not fully appreciated in the day, in retrospect these unique regional accents have come into their own.

Chicago Soul was a form of soul music that arose from 1960s Chicago. The Impressions (with lead singer Curtis Mayfield) embodied and were the essence of this sound. Others included: Jackie Wilson, The Artistics, The Radiants, The Esquires, Major Lance and Jan Bradley (both Mayfield proteges), Tyrone Davis, The Chi-Lites, Barbara Acklin, Jerry Butler (formerly sang with The Impressions), Lou Rawls, and Gene Chandler, among others. Producers Carl Davis and Johnny Pate are also associated with this sound.

This particular genre helped launch the album-oriented soul of the 1970s.

There was also a Chicago Sound that was more rock-oriented. The Buckinghams and The Cryin' Shames were the main proponents of this.

There's always been a rivalry between Chicago and New York City, and the music wasn't any different.

But New York may have an edge, music-wise. It's been long regarded as one of the world's major music centers, and covers many genres, particularly Latin music. The Drifters embodied this sound, as did Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, Ben E. King, The Crystals, and The Shangri-Las, among others.

Philadelphia played a pivotal role in '60s rock and roll, twice. Dick Clark's American Bandstand took off in 1957, becoming a national phenomenon.

On the heels of Bandstand's success, many local talent were signed to regional labels, (most notably Cameo and Parkway) and became successful. Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Fabian, and Dee Dee Sharp, among others, embodied the Philadelphia Sound.

In the late '60s, the beginnings of the new Philadelphia Sound, which would become the cornerstone of the 1970s "mellow soul" trend, were taking hold. Led by producer/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the early proponents of this sound included The Intruders and The Delfonics.

The city also contributed to the world of jazz, via Nina Simone and John Coltrane.

There was also a Pittsburgh Sound, though not as prevalent as Philadelphia. The Vogues were the main proponents; Others included Eddie Holman and The Jaggerz (named after a local term for goofing off).

The state of Ohio had a major impact throughout the decade (and beyond). Dean Martin, The McCoys, The O'Jays, The Isley Brothers, and The Human Beinz, all hailed from here. Central Ohio, particularly Cleveland, were home to a variety of 1960s garage bands, including The Myrchents and The Choir (who later added Eric Carmen and became the early '70s group, The Raspberries).

There were also pop and early punk rock bands from Akron, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. (During the '70s, Southwest Ohio, particularly Dayton, begat a number of funk bands, such as: The Ohio Players, Lakeside, Slave, Heatwave, Zapp featuring Roger Troutman, and Bootsy's Rubber Band, featuring Bootsy Collins.)

The two cities of Nashville and Memphis were (and still are) renowned worldwide for their contributions to American music before, throughout the '60s decade, and beyond.

Nashville's the capital of country music, while Memphis is blues, early rock and roll, and soul.

By the 1950s, Nashville's record labels dominated country music, hence the "Nashville Sound". Performers reacting against this sound formed their own music scenes, most notably in Lubbock, Texas and Bakersfield, California, the latter of which the "Bakersfield Sound" was created. Buck Owens and His Buckeroos were the leading examples of this genre.

Memphis lays claim to "Birthplace of the Blues" AND "Birthplace of Rock and Roll". The city was a blues music center for most of the 20th century.

Sam Phillips started Sun Records here, an early rock-and-roll and blues label. Among Sun's roster were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, and Charlie Rich. The city was also home to blues legend B.B. King (in the '40s) and the legendary Stax Records (in the 1960s).

New Orleans is world-renowned for its jazz, but it was also a pivotal part of early rock and roll and '60s music. Perhaps its most famous native son would be the great Antoine "Fats" Domino, one of rock's pioneers and one of its biggest hitmakers (along with his co-writer, Dave Bartholomew). The legendary producer/songwriter Allen Touissaint further perfected the "New Orleans Sound" by bringing forth the talents of Lee Dorsey, Ernie K. Doe, and many others. The Dixie Cups, Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers, and one of its members, Aaron Neville, who achieved international success, were (and still are) leading proponents of this genre.

Northern Soul was the music, dance styles, and fashion that were popular in late 1960s northern England dance halls. The music originally consisted of obscure American soul records with an uptempo beat, very similar to and including Motown and more obscure labels (OKeh, Duke), along with a number of bllue beat records. Much of this music was recorded in the northern U.S., but music from the South wasn't excluded, nor was music that wasn't strictly soul.

Most of Northern Soul's original audience came from the Mods (remember the Mods and the Rockers?), who loved this music. Some Mods turned away from the genre to embrace the late '60s psychedelic music scene, but many decided to stick to the original sound of soul and ska.

In the beginning, the dancing was athletic, featuring spins, flips, and drops.

Early Northern Soul fashions included bowling shirts, blazers with center vests and tons of buttons, baggy pants or tight-fitting Levis. Many wore club membership badges. (These clubs were organized by dance halls such as Manchester's Twisted Wheel Club, the first one that effectively defined the Northern Soul sound.)

By 1970, British performers were recording songs for this market; the scarcity of soul records with the required rhythm led to the playing of "stompers", records by any artist that had the right beat.

This genre, because of its rare records, has greatly appreciated in value and is among the most expensive to collect.

For those surviving Northern Soul artists, it's truly a case of "better late than never". In their heyday, the independent labels that most recorded on couldn't deliver the necessary promotion and radio play to gain the artists stardom, due to low budgets. Many had to return to day jobs and sank into obscurity for years or decades.

Then there was a revival; songs that were released in the '60s became top UK hits in the '70s and beyond. And some acts, such as Motown's Velvelettes, became sensations in England and the rest of the world.

And then there was the San Francisco Sound. Next to the British Invasion and Motown, this was probably the third biggest of the regional accents. This genre was associated with the counterculture community of the time. Prominent in this development were such groups as the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape, Blue Cheer, The Steve Miller Blues Band, Santana, Sly and The Family Stone, and countless others.

Each group had a distinct sound, but there were also enough commonalities that there was a regional sound to all of them. Fresh and adventurous improvisation during live performances, louder, more prominent electric bass, uncommon chordal progressions, and freer, more resourceful use of all instruments were characteristics of the sound. The lyrics were very poetic, emotional, and intelligent, often touching on brotherhood, solidarity, harmony with nature, and of course, love. And there was usually a typical regular jam session (or two), lasting anywhere from five minutes to an hour or longer.

Many concerts, in conjunction with various pantomime, theater and writers' groups, poet readings, and artist exhibits, were free, held in parks, "happenings", "love-ins", and "be-ins".

This city became "the place". The Sir Douglas Quintet, originally from Texas, came and stayed. Singer Scott MacKenzie would write a song about the city, having a huge hit the following year. And one of the Beatles, George Harrison (with wife Patti), toured the Haight-Asbury district in '67.

San Francisco wasn't just a Tony Bennett song anymore!

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