Yeah, You Right, Baton Rouge! (Updated)
"Yeah, You Right" (Shaab-Carter-Zeigler-O'Rourke-Cowart)
The Sister And Brothers, Uni 55238, ca. 1969
[6/18/2008 - I've updated and revised this post several times, since some more information has come to light, thanks to several people who contacted me after reading it and got me doing more sleuthing. Your comments and/or emails are always welcome and will always be credited, unless you wish to remain anonymous.]
I discovered this single in a huge lot of 45s I bought right after I moved to Lafayette; and "Yeah, You Right", with its highly percussive groove and insinuating Afro-beat rhythmic flavor, sucked me in as soon as the needle dropped. As the label states, both sides were cut at Deep South Recording Studios in Baton Rogue. Some good funk-related music has been made in the city over the years; but quite frankly, I’ve never heard anything quite like our feature track come out of Baton Rouge before or since. It’s another song like “Get Up” by Willie Tee and the Gaturs, where the groove takes hold and makes the inconsequential lyrics unimportant, the vocals becoming just another part of the sonic ensemble. Not to denigrate the lead vocalist here, who I've determined with some certainty was Geraldine Richard, (a/k/a Sister Geri). She sang on all three of the group's singles, and had a soulful, high quality delivery, especially on the non-funk numbers, such as the flip side of this one, “Dear Ike (Remember I'm John's Girl)”, one of those slow burner monologue songs where the talking goes on longer than the actual singing; but when she finally does start in, it’s well worth hearing, too.
Through a comment from The Tyrone Gringos (dated 11/2/2008) to an an earlier version of this post, I've learned that The Sister And Brothers were a working band, at least for a short time, in the Baton Rouge area. I had thought before that they might have been only a studio creation. From the information in that comment, it seems the band members were not the core unti that played on this single, though, as I have learned that session band was a very busy separate entity. No information has yet come to light about who played on the other releases credited to the group, though.
Recorded in 1968 or early 1969, the earliest single for The Sisters And Brothers may have first appeared locally on Lucky Sounds #1010, but was re-issued on Uni 55199, “The Jed Clampett, Parts 1 & 2”, the a-side of which can be heard on Mr. Finewine's 02/09/2001 WFMU show. Ron Shaab, who produced or co-produced all three of the records, wrote the raw, Southern funkifried tune, featuring some excellent broken up drumming, that has Richard mainly talking with attitude over the groove, rather than singing.
Following soon thereafter, likely later in 1969 or early 1970, was “Yeah, You Right". The label gives co-production credit to Shaab and Cold Gritz, perhaps better know as Cold Grits, a legendary session band that has been shrouded in mystery since the release of their chill, one-off funk single on Atco that same year, "It's Your Thing" b/w "Bring It On Home To Me". The unit was from the Baton Rouge area originally and had backed John Fred (as his Playboy Band) on tour and on his records for Uni in the late 1960s, which is probably how The Sister And Brothers came to the label. The drummer for Cold Grits, Ronald 'Tubby' Ziegler, has verified to me that his group were actually the ‘Brothers’ who played on the awesome "Yeah, You Right" and it's b-side, both of which which they are credited as co-writing with Shaab. Under the circumstances, it is likely they were on the first Uni single, too. The other members of Cold Grits were Harold Cowart on bass, Jimmy O'Rourke on guitar, and Billy Carter on keyboards.
In an anonymous comment to this post, someone has provided a kind of fuzzy history of Cold Grits after they left John Fred's employ, which you are free to read. I have not independently verified all the information offered there. What is clear is that they soon encountered Jerry Wexler, who, around 1969, invited them to come to Atlantic's new Criteria Studios in Miami to work on backing tracks for a number of artists, including Wilson Pickett and Jackie Moore; and, as noted, the group's lone 45 was also issued at the time. Cold Grits came to Criteria around the same time that Wexler brought in the Dixie Flyers rhythm section (mainly from Memphis) for various other projects. For sure, Criteria was a happening place for making records and the hits were flying.
I am still working on an even murkier connection The Sister And Brothers may have had to another group associated with Baton Rouge, Cold Gritz and The Blackeyed Peas, who had a short-lived deal with Ode Records around 1970 that resulted in only one single, “Bayou Country”, although at least a album’s worth of material was recorded. Guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Duke Bardwell, another vocalist and area legend Luther Kent, plus three female singers were some of the members of that group. I am still trying to suss out whether Sister Geri might have been one of those other singers, and if any Cold Grits players were also in Cold Grtiz (still with me?), or if similarities stopped with the name. Plenty of questions remain., such as why Cold Grits was shown as Cold Grtiz on the "Yeah, You Right" single.
I hope to talk more with ‘Tubby’ Zeigler about this period, as we have only had a few brief phone calls and emails as yet. He is recuperating from a recent heart attack and needs time to mend. I wish him all the best. With such an interesting career as a stone grooving sideman, he needs his own feature. After he left Cold Grits and Miami in the early 1970s, he toured and recorded with Steven Stills for several years, and then went back to Criteria to work sessions for Atlantic. He also played on many recordings for Miami-based T.K. Productions, well-known for their soul and funk output on Alston, Cat, Drive, Glades, Kayvette and many more related labels. Harold Cowart also stayed in Miami for many years working on many of Criteria's big name sessions.
Cedited to The Sister & Brothers, the final single, “Ack-A-Fool” b/w “Chained”, appeared on the Calla imprint in 1970. See that linked post for more details. But, as with the two prior Uni releases, it quickly slipped into obscurity.
During the 1970s, Ron Shaab also worked on recordings with other Baton Rouge soul/funk artists such as Earnest Jackson and George Perkins, and was also a concert promoter for a while in the city. Unfortunately, he passed away in the late 1990s; and I haven't learned any more about him, so far.
Regardless of the remaining mysteries of its back story, this outstanding track has that highly sought after HFQ (High Funk Quotient) we covet and is certainly worthy of a shout-out to any and all those in Baton Rouge who made it happen.