Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Farewell to Mighty Sam

Very sad to hear the news that Mighty Sam McClain has died aged 72. Sam had a fantastic soul/ blues voice - one of the very best - and his late sixties Amy recordings produced by Papa Don Schroeder at Muscle Shoals are among the very best of the era. Born in Monroe, Louisiana, he began singing in church, making his recording debut in 1966 with a soulful version of Patsy Cline's Sweet Dreams.Follow ups included Fannie Mae (backed with the equally exciting Badmouthin'), When She Touches Me (Nothing Else Happens), both of which were issued on Stateside in the UK. Then came the excellent Papa True Love, released on Soul City, and the collectable Mighty Soul LP, also on Soul City (pictured above).
But then Sam faded from view, worked low pay jobs and even sold his blood while he was homeless. His comeback started when he recorded an album called Your Perfect Companion in New Orleans in 1986, was rediscovered by the Neville Brothers and toured Japan, resulting in the Live In Japan album. This sparked a new successful phase of his career. He took part in the Hubert Sumlin Blues Party project with Black Top records and moved to New England, where many of the artists involved with that were based. Successful award winning albums followed, including Give It To Love, Keep On Moving, Sledgehammer Soul and Down Home Blues, Journey and Joy and Pain, showing that he had lost none of his edgy 'red clay' soulfulness. Later work included a contribution to the Give Us Your Poor album fighting homelessness and a collaboration with artists from Iran and Norway. He played at the Porretta Soul Festival in 1996 but I didn't go that year unfortunately.
For me the early work was hard to beat, and here are three of those early 45s. The first one, Fannie Mae, is a review copy that I received back in 1966 when I was a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, and the third one I picked up at a car boot sale just a few weeks ago. RIP Mighty Sam..



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