As the playlists and mp3s come in from Friday night’s Asbury Park 45 Sessions, I can agree with Larry over at Funky 16 Corners that the night was probably one of, if not the best session we had since it’s inception. The people, the music, and of course the venue was great. I caught a little flack for my merc of London suit and fedora, but a guy has to look fly once in a while. Also, I got word that we are now listed in the Tools of War – The Grass Roots of Hip Hop newsletter. Watch out for the 45 Sessions kids, we’re catching on! This week is going to be short for me, as I will be taking a short break from my massive pace of posts since March. I’ll have a post for you this fine Monday morning, and another one for Wednesday, but will be back the following Monday. By then I’m hoping to get some scores out of state, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I know mine will be, and ye olde Fisher Price portable will hopefully get a good workout. I got this record at my spot, and of course it was in FMF fashion, drama and comedy filled. Mario Brothers aka Meatball parted with this side, but not without a fight. His sand filled metal 45 box, fresh with scratched Northern Soul sides (“This record was in Stinkie Steve’s Northern Soul guide for 75 pounds”, he’d quip) produced this Midwest gem, and I scooped it up. The label is misprinted, spelling out Soul Toranodoes, and to be honest with you, I just discovered it tonight. I’ve been waiting to get to this record, “Funky Thang” by the Soul Tornadoes on Burt Records. So let’s go to “Rubbertown”, Akron, Ohio, for some middle America Funk.
The Heller twins (not really twins but given that nickname), Charles and Bobby were destined to be in the entertainment business. From the early days of their youth, their mother Lurlene had the”Twistin’ Twins” performing before National Acts at the Hi-Hat Club, and even dancing before the Godfather of Soul, James Brown would take the stage. Encouraged by their mother, who bought them a Hammond B-3 and a drum kit, the Heller boys started to hone their craft. It didn’t hurt that their mother was responsible for guys like Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff eating her home cooked meals and sleeping at their house when they were in town to play the Hi Hat Club. These boys learned from the pros. They would go on to form a trio (the original Soul Tornadoes), but added a new guitarist James ‘Boots” Smith, and bassist Bruce Martin shortly thereafter. With Charles on the drums, and Bobby on the B3, the Soul Tornadoes started to rip up music like a twister through a trailer park. They signed with Ernest Burt, who owned Burt Records (also Magic City,Mello, Sock-It, and Hello World) and Magic City Studios in Detroit, Michigan. Magic City was close to Hitsville, USA, and they definitely rubbed shoulders with many Motown greats (rumor has it bassist James Jamerson stole a ST riff and used it on Edwin Starr’s “25 Miles”), and even had a chance to sign with the Detroit label. Fate would not let them, as they were locked into a contract they couldn’t get out with Burt. Unfortunately the Soul Tornadoes would see one tragedy after another, whether it be shady dealings in the music industry (their tunes being put out without their knowledge, subsequently not getting paid for said record), death of band members, a royal diss from James Brown (he thought “Go For Yourself” was a straight up rip off of “Cold Sweat”), or disaterous tours. They couldn’t catch a break. Some of the band members (Charles) found their way out to LA to play with Lakeside, only to face more adversity and frustration. They also backed up the Soul singers Jackie Beavers, Jackie Moore, and Jackie Wilson, even going as far to play a gig with Curtis Mayfield. It seemed though, it was destiny that they were to not succeed.
They recorded this record in 1969, supposedly in one session, and it really smokes. It’s a bit more down tempo than the James Brown inspired (copied?) “Go For Yourself”, but the guitar work of Boots really shines. This guitar driven track is fun-kay as hell, while Charles’s Hammond chops like some kind of Judo move throughout the duration of the side. Definitely more on the slower of the Tornadoes songs, it’s still a dusty keeper. We’re fortunate that Jazzman Gerald dug up and reissued this side some 30 years plus after the original was recorded. I’m lucky to have dug up this Midwest slice of goodness here in the Garden State. I’ll see you here midweek. Keep Diggin’!