Billy Stewart – Summertime

Billy Stewart

Billy Stewart Summertime 45

I’m starting out this post by shouting out a new member of the Flea Market Funk Family, the Mighty Stepfather of Soul who has been turning a good number of people on to this ever growing audio blog. Check out what he’s got goin’ on over there, because it’s red hot.

Not quite summertime yet, but I’d thought I would throw out some summer vibes in light of the month of May being here already. It’s been covered by many (try over 2600 people), and this record has been getting a lot of spins on the Flea Market Funk turntables. This version by Billy Stewart on Chess Records is very unique, and is slowly becoming my favorite. I included it on my Saturday Night Waffle Mix, so without further ado, let’s get the ball rolling with the original fast talker.

Here’s another cat that started out singing gospel early on in life, moving from spirituals and hymnals to a being a substitute in Don Covay’s (if you haven’t checked out his version of “Money”, I highly recommend it) Rainbows group out of DC. Discovered by Bo Diddly, this stout young man went on as a backing musician, recorded some for Okeh records, and then hit the road. Coming back to Chess in the early 60’s, it was here he struck up his friendship/writing partnership with Billy Evans. Shortly after, in 1964, he released two of his greatest hits: “I Do Love You”, and “Sitting In the Park”. In 1966 he finally cut a record of all standards for Chess (once again he was back in the Chess stable) in 1966. This is where we get his stunning version of “Summertime”. Having a knack to do some unique vocal stylings, Stewart was known to double up his words and talk fast, thus earning him his nickname, “Motor Mouth”.

The beginning of this record starts with a tongue roll, and could very well have been jacked by Prince Markie Dee and crew, aka the Fat Boys, who rapped and beatboxed their way to stardom some 20 years later. Of course this is wishful thinking on my part. (I can say, however, that I have definitely heard that tongue roll sampled quite a few times on mix tapes, break records, and live DJ sets. ) A heavy drum break comes in courtesy of Maurice White (who would later go on to play with his group Earth, Wind, and Fire). What follows, I can only describe as controlled mayhem. Using the backing band for this track, Stewart chose the regular line up for the Chess studio sessions. This included Louis Satterfield on bass, Pete Cosley on guitar, and Sonny Thompson on piano. Stewart scats, hoots, and hollers his way through the entire 2 minutes and 38 seconds. In fact, the man doesn’t come up for air. He kills it! As I mentioned before, he was a bigger man, and I would have loved to see him move and groove to the break down in this classic when he played it live. Sadly, Stewart and three band members were killed in 1970 when their car drove off a North Carolina bridge. Although had his unfortunate passing, he leaves behind a good deal of recordings, and one helluva cover in “Summertime”. Keep Diggin’!

Billy Stewart – Summertime Ripped from the Chess 45

***Tonight, I received an e mail from the Dr. Bobby Fulton, from Soulville/ Jaywalking Records in regards to the Continental Four review I did. He sent me over a few personal photos of the band, as well as a few personal memories. I will be posting them to that said review. Enjoy!

5 responses to “Billy Stewart – Summertime

  1. Pingback: Evergreens: Summertime·

  2. Billy Stewart’s version of “Summertime” has always been my favorite — at least from 1966 onward. I bought this 45 when it was originally released but it seems to have disappeared sometime in the last 40 years. Thanks for posting it; you brought back some nice memories. I’m glad Jason over at Stepfather of Soul recommended your terrific site.

  3. Thank you for the kind words Laura. Just about a month strong here and the family is growing fast. See you around the Flea Market with the Funk-

  4. Pingback: Billy Stewart: Summertime/To Love To Love (Chess 1966, 1966) – DJ Gunga's Wax Museum·

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