Marva Whitney – It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To)

Download or Listen to Marva Whitney – It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To) from the King Records 45

Well, it has been an exhausting week here at FMF, but we push on. Still recovering from our Mid Atlantic 45 assault on DC and Richmond, VA, I went back to the grind and then again back to my weekly DJ nights. Shout out to those who came out to all of them and hung out extra late Saturday night to nod their head to some gritty Funk and Wu Tang while they drank their Genne Cream Ales and Singapore Slings @ the Annex. I had some other stuff lined up for today, but decided I had to just put this ahead. It’s going to sounds silly, but besides being a killer side (and classic too), the sleeve of all things really was cool, so I said WTF. Here’s Soul Sister Number 1, Marva Whitney with “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To) on Cincinnati’s King Records.

Born Marva Ann Manning in 1944 in Kansas City, Kansas, she was the eldest of seven siblings. Getting her start in music atthe tender age of three, by the time she was barely a teen she was performing with the Manning Gospel Singers playing piano and singing around the country. In 1960, at age 16 she would join up with another group called the Alma Whitney Singers. Marva would go on to marry Harry Whitney, the brother in law of the lead singer. Taking the Whitney name, she’d move on to become part of an all girl group that lasted as long as the name did in my memory. Not giving up, she would study in Kansas City Conservatory of Music’s reputable guru Willie Rice. Working a day job, she concentrated on singing at night clubs on the weekend, where she would eventually front a band called Tommy and the Derbys. This band was headed up by Tommy Gadsen, the brother of one of the funkiest drummers ever, James Gadsen. When the band relocated to California, Whitney continued to press on. She hooked up with Bert Bart, who was part of James Brown’s booking company. The first meeting with JB did not happen (due to a riot at one of his local concerts), and they didn’t meet until the Godfather came back into town again. Whitney got an audition after the show, and the rest is history. At 23 years old, Soul Sister Number 1 toured with JB, performed her own small set when the Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness took a break, and eventually started to record for King. Her first effort, “Your Love Was Good To Me” b/w “Saving My Love For My Baby” was produced by JJ Barnes and Walter Whisenhunt. Gaining momentum from her performance of “Think” on a Live at the Apollo series record, Whitney headed back in the studio to record yet another Soul single ” Saving My Love For My Baby”. It didn’t really do too well. Then James Brown, the mastermind that he is, decided to go somewhere else with Whitney. He took her to the land of Funk with “Unwind Yourself”. It’s here that Whitney’s sound would forever be embedded in DJ’s, producers, and diggers much later on. This funky sound with JB’s touch was destiny. Although more singles were put out, “I’m Tired I’m Tired I’m Tired” and “What Do I Have To Do To Prove My Love To You”, she still failed to gain the recognition chartwise that Brown often saw. This would change with “It’s My Thing”, a so called answer to the Isley’s “It’s Your Thing”. Finally a charting single (#19 on the Billboard charts). Two more (and her final singles before an ill-fated Lp), “Things Got To Get Better” and “I Made A Mistake Because It’s Only You” before leaving JB altogether. She resurfaced and cut a record with the Isley’s on T-Neck (“Giving It Up On Love”) before taking a hiatus from the business for a while. It was shorter than you think and after marrying Forte record company owner Ellis Taylor, she’d release some other scorchers: “Daddy Don’t Know About Sugar Bear” and “Live & Let Live” before being under the radar until the 80’s, where she resurfaced as a member of Coffee, Cream, and Sugar. The late eighties were good to Marva, as she was re-discovered by a whole new generation of fans. Sampled by The 45 King for “The 900 Number”, Marva Whitney was back in the spotlight. Some reissues of the James Brown extended family yielded successful European tours, furthering her notoriety. More successful solo tours followed, and she is still doing her thing today, and doing it well I might add.

Starting out with the signature JB sound: backbeat, JB horns, and jangly ass guitar, Marva straight kills it. It’s a good thing that JB flipped the script on Whitney’s style, because this sound was definitely her thing, and I wish she had continued to put out more 45’s in this area. It’s so good to hear her shout it out loud, a proud sista, taking charge. Maybe I get that feeling because it was a James Brown production, and am biased because that sound can’t be beat. However, she did prove with the Isley Brothers producing and her other singles on Forte that she could be the Number One Soul Sister and the Queen of Funk. See you midweek after some corned beef with another gem. Keep Diggin!

The sweet King record sleeve!

Check Out My Interview On Dust and Grooves with Photographer Eilon Paz

Roof Top 45 Video From Photo Shoot

7 responses to “Marva Whitney – It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To)

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