Professor Harper's Soul Classroom
When one thinks of the urban centers that put soul music on the map, the city most frequently mentioned is Detroit. Occasionally, other cities such as New York, St. Louis, or Philadelphia are brought up, but many fail to recognize the importance of Chicago, Illinois.Chicago, and its huge metro suburbs, established itself early on as a breeding ground for great black music. Beginning in the 1920s with jazz, and right up until the 1950s with the birth of the Southside Blues sound, Chicago has been a musical mecca. Artists like B.B. King, Lowell Fulsom, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Muddy Waters made names for themselves in the windy city, and their influence has not ended there.Beginning in the early 1960s, as the focus of black music shifted from R&B to soul, young producers in the Chicago area began to lay the foundations for a musical explosion. Most of these artists and producers were influenced by blues music, but they wanted to create their own sound and write a new chapter in musical history. Chicago natives Carl Davis and Bill "Bunky" Sheppard, decided to record local talent and the Chi-town sound was born.Rather than travel to established soul music cities, Davis and Sheppard began their own labels in Chicago, recruited their own local composers, and created a new distinctive soul sound different from what was coming out of Detroit or Philadelphia. Unlike most other producers of their era, whose fundamental concern was finding a catchy riff and having top ten hits, Davis and Sheppard concentrated on sophisticated vocals. Early recordings by groups like The Impressions, the Esquires and others, illustrate this distinctive style of production.Along with their new sound, the producers discovered that Chicago was blessed with an abundance of talent. Lured from the South by the promise of jobs, Chicago had a huge African-American community that was able to support many entertainers. From the streets of the windy city came people like Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Eugene Record, Barbara Acklin, Betty Everett, Major Lance and Otis Levehill. These artists had different backgrounds and styles, but they shared one attribute in common -- great voices.Anyone who listen to the '60 Chicago soul sound can see that the combination of great producers and talented artists leads to great recordings. The danceable sound, with harmonious vocals (falsettos), simply arrangements and the trademark darting horns, quickly shot many Chicago artists and bands to overnight success.As the artists and producers in Chicago matured, their songs became more distinctive. By the mid-sixties the Chi-town sound was well established; so much so that there were "copy-cat bands" in other cities, and many prominent soul and R&B artists moved to Chicago to try and cash in on the success.The most famous of these new immigrants was Jackie Wilson. Wilson. Originally from New York, Wilson moved to Chicago in December of 1965, and struck a deal with Carl Davis's Brunswick label. After six months in the studio, Wilson emerged as Bunswick's most polished act. The result were songs like "Soul Galore," where Wilson was able to capture the Chi-town sound perfectly. As a result of his move to town, Wilson experienced a resurgence of popularity and had many hits.As the decade came to an end, more Chicago artists such as The Chi-lites and Tyrone Davis were able to make their mark nationally. Unfortunately, as funk began to replace soul as the major black music form, the Chi-town sound was doomed. By 1972, the era came to an end, and a glorious chapter in soul was completed.SIDEBAR #1Here is a list of some of the more amazing Chicago artists and songs to come out of the 1960s Chi-town soul hey-day.MAJOR LANCE "The Matador" "Monkey Time" "Rhythm"TYRONE DAVIS "Can I Change My Mind" "Turn Back The Hands Of Time"JACKIE WILSON "Higher & Higher" "Soul Galore" "Because of You"JERRY BUTLER"Hey Western Union Man" "Lost" "Never Gonna Give You Up"BARBARA ACKLIN"I Call It Trouble" "Just Ain't No Love"THE CHI-LITES"Have You Seen Her" "For God's Sake" "Stoned Out of My Mind"THE IMPRESSIONS "It's Alright" "We're A Winner" "You've Been Cheating"The Artistics "Patty Cake" "Girl I Need You"The Esquires "Get On Up" "The Feelings Gone" "State Fair"The Vibrations "End Up Crying" "Watusi"