Freddie Hughes at the Royal Cuckoo
My American trip continues with a drive up the west coast from LA to San Francisco, taking in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Carmel and Monterey. There's some fabulous scenery but not much in the way of music apart from a band called the Denis Dove Band in Sly McFly's bar in Cannery Row in Monterey.
I'm now in Frisco and have done several of the things that visitors must do, including a trip to Alcatraz, a ride on a cable car and a look at the famous zigzag road in Lombard Street.
Last night we went to the Royal Cuckoo bar on Mission Street where Freddie Hughes, a soul star of the 60s, has a regular gig playing with Hammond organist Chris Burns. Freddie is not to be confused with Fred Hughes, who hit with Ooh Wee Baby on Brunswick. Indeed he revealed to me that he resented the confusion that had arisen from LA based Fred being credited with his work. Freddie's soul hit from 1968 was Send My Baby Back, a sweet soul number sung in a light, high voice that he retains today. The record was big locally and he claims that it sold upwards of 900,000 copies in total. Freddy began singing in church and went on to record with Lonnie Hewitt on the Wee label before Send My Baby Back was picked up by Wand. He made other records and even toured the UK in later years but nothing could touch the success of his first disc. A best of compilation was issued by Ace a few years back showing off his vocal excellence, although he says that he's still waiting to receive any royalties and feels that he was manipulated.
Freddie was the subject of a Juke Blues article by Dave Williams about ten years ago, when he would have been playing regularly at the Fifth Amendment in nearby Oakland. He's had his current gig for the last five years, playing regularly with Chris Burns, an old friend of Dave and of the late blues man Steve Gannon. Last night's set included Send My Baby Back, still a beautiful song well sung, and other numbers included Let's Stay Together, Fever, My Girl, See See Rider and Next Time I See You. A very enjoyable mix of soft soul and blues. Next time you're in Frisco look him up.