Saturday, June 30, 2018

Eugene Pitt of the Jive Five RIP and others

Sad to hear of the death, at the age of 80, of Eugene Pitt, lead singer of the Jive Five who had a huge hit in 1961 with My True Story. The group recorded for the Beltone label and followed up their US hit (which failed to chart in the UK) with Never Never and What Time Is It? before having further success with I'm A Happy Man on United Artists. Further recordings failed to score but they adapted to the soul sound in the seventies, with Pitt always in an ever changing line up. In the 1980s they recorded a series of jingles for the American kids' TV network Nickleodeon. I've seen Eugene on several occasions in recent years and each time he was in superb form. He was at the Doo-wop Weekend in Long Island in 2014 and 2016 (pictured above) and appeared alongside Herb Cox and Bobby Lewis at Viva Las Vegas in 2015. At the 2016 doo-wop show, at which Eugene and the Jive Five sang My True Story, What Time Is It? and I'm A Happy Man, I considered them the act of a very busy day. In My True Story the lyrics name Sue, Earl and Lorraine as the protagonists, but that 'names have been changed dear to protect you and I'. Eugene revealed in an interview a few years ago that it was actually about his girl friend of the time, name of Phyllis Little.
The Vinyl Word also raises a glass to some other musicians who have died during the last few weeks. D J Fontana, who has died aged 87, was the drummer at the Louisiana Hayride and joined Scotty Moore, Bill Black and a young Elvis Presley to form the Blue Moon Boys at Sun Records. He went on to back Elvis on most of his fifties records and was with him at his 1968 Comeback Special. My photo shows D J backing Charlie Gracie at the RNA Club in Plaistow in 1992.
Another recent death is that of blues guitarist Matt 'Guitar' Murphy at the age of 88. Born in Sunflower, Mississippi, he moved to Chicago aged 19 and joined Howlin' Wolf's band, which included Junior Parker at the time. He recorded with many Chicago blues greats including Sonny Boy
Williamson, Buddy Guy and Chuck Berry, and was part of the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival which I recall seeing at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon. He recorded with James Cotton in the 1970s but reached a far bigger audience when he appeared in the Blues Brothers films, playing the husband of Aretha Franklin,  and toured with the Blues Brothers band.
It's farewell too, also at the age of 88, to Clarence Fountain, long time leader of the Blind Boys of Alabama. Clarence toured with possibly the greatest, and certainly the best known, gospel group of all time from the 1940s to 2007. I saw them at least half a dozen times and they were a joy on every occasion, with Clarence's voice and stage presence well to the fore.
The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.


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