Saturday, May 18, 2013
Anyway, I thought I'd throw a curve here and spotlight an LP track instead of a 45 (though this track SHOULDA been on a 7-inch slab o' waxy goodness). It's by a group that were called the M&M boys, the Maggs, Mag Men, etc., but they were officially known as The Magnificent Men - and magnificent they were.
The term "blue-eyed soul" gets thrown about quite a bit - I've heard it used in reference to everyone from David Bowie to Scott Walker to Frank Sinatra (in fact, if you want a good laugh, check out Wikipedia's entry for "Category: Blue Eyed Soul Singers"). But the term was coined for white singers who were singing in the new soul style of the 1960s - acts like Wayne Cochran, The Rascals, Ronnie Milsap, Roy Head, Len Barry, The O'Kaysions, The Shades Of Blue, The Soul Survivors and, of course, The Righteous Brothers, who were probably the first act to have that tag appended to them. But the best blue-eyed soul act of all was The Magnificent Men, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They had almost everything - TWO fantastic lead singers (David Bupp and Buddy King) who also wrote much of their material, a steady leader in drummer Bob "Puff" Angelucci, and the rest of the guys (Jim Seville, Tom Hoover - later replaced by Billy Richter, Terry Crousore and Tom Pane) were absolute killer instrumentalists and singers. They were the FIRST white act to headline at the Apollo Theater (and James Brown himself was so impressed that he jumped up on stage with them for one 45-minute set). They also played landmarks of the chitlin' circuit like the Howard Theater in Washington, D. C. and the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia (where they recorded their legendary live LP). Unfortunately, they were signed to Capitol Records, who literally had no idea what to do with them.
The group was formed in the early 1960s from the remains of two rather large (and racially mixed) bands - the seven-member Del-Chords (who had a great 45 called "Your Mommy Lied To Your Daddy") and the nine-piece Endells (who had a semi-hit in Philadelphia called "Vicky"). When several of the white members from both groups started jamming together, they formed a third group, calling themselves The Magnificent Seven. They also started getting a lot more gigs, since booking agents were a bit wary of hiring their old bands because they were racially integrated.
They soon signed with Capitol, and changed their name to The Magnificent Men. Their first single, "Peace Of Mind", written by Bupp and King, was a top ten R&B hit in Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago. The follow-up, "Maybe, Maybe Baby", got airplay in New York on WMCA and got the Mag Men invited to the Apollo as headliners.
But on a national level, nobody knew who these guys were. Despite the regional success of their first two 45s, neither of them charted nationally, on either the pop or R&B charts (in fact, they only charted twice in their whole career, with "I Could Be So Happy", which hit #93 pop, and "Sweet Soul Medley", taken from the live LP, which was their biggest pop hit at #90. They never hit the national R&B chart). Their first two LPs, The Magnificent Men and Live!, were decent sellers, but again, neither one charted.
In October, 1967, the group decided to travel to Chicago to try and change their fortunes, working with producer Carl Davis and arranger Sonny Sanders on a session. Unfortunately, only ONE song was released from that session, and this was it. "Nobody Treats Me The Way You Do" was written by Marvin Smith, lead singer of The Artistics (who the Mag Men patterned their harmonies after) and is one of the finest examples of blue-eyed soul - hell, just SOUL - in existence.
Capitol couldn't have cared less. After two LPs and a bunch of 45s that didn't chart, the group's welcome was wearing thin. So Capitol pushed the group towards what used to be called "supper-club soul" - standards with a slightly soulful bent. This direction came to fruition on the group's third Capitol LP, The World Of Soul, an uneven album in which great group originals such as "So Much Love Waiting" and "It's Got To Be Love" were mixed in with standards such as "September Song", "Alfie" and "Everybody's Got A Home But Me". The Maggs handled these well, but the one Chicago track that was included on the LP sticks out like a sore thumb (and, typical of the corporate ways of Capitol, Carl Davis was not even credited on the LP jacket, though strangely Sonny Sanders was).
Released in early 1968, the LP bombed, and the novelty of a white group singing soul was beginning to wear off (The Rascals, after their huge 1968 hit "People Got To Be Free", suffered the same fate, dropping down the charts dramatically with their next few 45s). Funk and harder-edged soul were beginning to take over, and the Mag Men were left behind. A switch to the Mercury label didn't help matters; the LP Like A Ten Cent Movie and two singles (including a version of Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay") had few takers. David Bupp left the group shortly afterwards, and the group disbanded in 1973.
Supposedly, a film about the group is near completion. See the trailer here. But don't wait for the film. Get every piece of wax you can by this group. You will NOT believe your ears.
The Magnificent Men - Nobody Treats Me The Way You Do (Capitol ST 2846) - 1968