Little Band Tate

Just a little bit about one of my very favorite record store finds. I feel they are very under appreciated and also feel you, as inquiring musical minds, should know about them as well.

So, here goes:

Eric Quincy Tate – self-titled
Atlantic/Cotillion/Rhino Handmade

Fans of Southern rock will no doubt want to check out Rhino Handmade’s reissue of the band Eric Quincy Tate’s eponymously named debut. It must be in the water as like another legendary Southern rock band (albeit one that achieved much more fame than the one whose album I am reviewing) who just happened to name themselves after a bastardization of their gym teacher Leonard Skinnerd’s lovely moniker, Eric Quincy Tate was actually a band, not a person, and had no members named Eric, Qunicy, or Tate. The name, however cryptic, really doesn’t matter much in this case, though. What matters is how a band this good only managed to make a mark regionally and never really broke out of the Southeast in terms of popularity. After listening to this album you will realize Eric Qunicy Tate blows most of the second-tier Southern Rock bands like Wet Willie and Sea Level out of the water and comes damn close to reaching the musical heights of the aforementioned king-of-them-all-y’all: Lynyrd Skynyrd!

The bandmembers met each other in the Naval reserves and were stationed in Quincy, MA, but later based themselves down South after forming the band. This was mostly because they were able to find a lot of gigs there, their sound more characteristic with what was happening in the deep South. Playing a lot in Texas near the Gulf Coast area, the band was eventually discovered by the Swamp King himself, Tony Joe White, who felt an affinity for the rocking blend of soul, blues and R&B the band was creating. White helped the band get signed to Capricorn records and produced this debut record, which vanished almost as soon as it was recorded, almost forgotten forever until the fine folks at Rhino realized the album compares favorably to White’s own classic Monument albums. Besides this disc, the band recorded two more albums before splitting up by the end of the ’70’s but none of their other albums came near the glorious heights of this one.

Filled with a greasy, swampy brand of rock, this album sounds a little different than just about everything else under the Southern Rock umbrella. Where most Southern Rock bands were mixing blues and rock, Eric Qunicy Tate decided to keep those elements and add generous helpings of Southern soul and country to their mix. By all accounts, the band could really rock and were excellent on their respective instruments, which makes it all the more surprising that most of the band didn’t even play on their own debut album! Somewhere along the line, executives at the band’s label decided to call in The Dixie Flyers, the house band from the reknowned Sounds of Memphis recording studio, and use them on the album instead. Seems the record company brass felt The Flyers, being established studio vets, would be able to accomplish recording the album a lot quicker than the inexperienced Eric Quincy Tate. To the record sompany, this move made more sense than giving free rein to untested talents. The cost of the recording would stay low and the band would jell together while promoting the album and later recordings could then be made by the actual band. Solid strategy – for a label. Disheartening as hell for a young band. Sad part is, it still happens frequently today. If you only knew how many debut albums by your favorite bands were loaded with studio ringers while the real members of the band watched from the wings, you would faint. Any debut album by a new band on a major label is loaded with ringers. They may not be credited, but they are there. Hell, as a guitar player in my youth, I was offered a chance to join the band of an up and coming recording artist on a big label. I listened to the demo and didn’t feel confident I could play the complicated parts, but was assured I would have my name on the album, be “taught” the parts by the studio whiz who actually played them, and be able to go on tour and become a full-fledged member of the band. I turned the job down (yeah, I’m an idiot) – but it happens a lot, believe me.

But, I have digressed. Let’s get back on topic.

It had to be disconcerting for the actual bandmembers of Eric Quincy Tate to show up at their first session and see all these heavyweights set up and ready to play and to be told they couldn’t play on their own debut. Singer/drummer Donnie McCormack and guitarist Tommy Carlisle were the only two members allowed to play on the album as they were the focal points of the band and also the two songwriters, but the rest of the band had to sit it out. The Memphis Horns also played on the album, but they were added later by overdub and were not present at the same sessions as the band. Though no one involved with the band can remember exactly who decided the band couldn’t play on it’s own record, the demos, alternate cuts and unreleased songs show a band more than capable of handling the job. These cuts feature a relaxed, loose, powerful Eric Quincy Tate who could hold their own with the best of their Southern Rock peers. Consider Eric Quincy Tate one of the best bands ever who ended up completely overlooked in favor of lesser talents.

Southern rock fans who have never heard of this band (or maybe had just forgotten them) are going to have an exciting time listening to this album. Not only will it be a revelation, but it will become an album to which you will return over and over again. The album manages to transcend the genre and show depth not usually associated with the mindless boogie most think of when broaching the subject of Southern Rock. Truly, Eric Quincy Tate wre something unto themselves and it’s a shame more people didn’t realize it at the time. Ah well, thanks to this reissue, there is still a chance for the band to get its’ due. Pick this up and have your preconcieved notions of good ole boy rock changed forever.

Get The Hinton

I sit here today on a friend’s computer a sad, broken man after the remnants of a thunderstorm totally fried mine this past Sunday. I have pretty much lost everything I have ever written, that is to say, the originals, how they were before all the evil editors I have worked with in the past tried to ruin them, destroy my thoughts and ideas. I still have the print copies, expurgated and diluted as they tend to be. It is not enough.

It is in times like this when I turn to some pretty deep music to try to erase the evil thoughts in my mind. The ones telling me to kill.

Once again I turn to Eddie Hinton.

The last, and really, only great white hope of deep soul music, Hinton wrote songs like Dan Penn, sang them like Otis Redding and played guitar like Steve Cropper. Only better. He spent a lot of time in the big recording studios in the deep South when the soul music boom of the late ’60’s/early ’70’s was at it’s peak. He played and wrote songs for artists like Percy Sledge, Johnny Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, the Staple Singers and the list goes on and on. All this was just the start, though. It is where he shaped his sound and honed his craft.

All for one reason: to strike out on his own. He got his chance around 1977 or so. The original Capricorn label wanted an album from him and he was only too eager to deliver. He poured his heart and soul, his sweat and tears, everything he had into the album and it was released. And it was fucking great. Sadly, the label started experiencing legal woes around the same time and the album trickled out to almost no response whatsoever.

It broke him. Shattered his mind to the point he was a mere shell of himself. Another band followed and some recording time but soon he was homeless. A friend found him, luckily, and helped him regain a measure of himself and also helped him put out some records for Rounder Records’ subsidiary Bullseye. While decent, these albums are scattershot – his vocals worn and ragged and his songs mere sketches. His guitar playing remained genius, pouring out of what was left of his shattered soul.

He managed two albums before he found peace in 1995. What we have left are rare albums that are the hopy grail of soul music. I implore you to find anything with his name on it and study it. Inside those grooves are the soul of a man who could do anything before the music business ripped his life from him and left him a limp husk.

Keep an eye out for an exceptionally good 3 CD series of songwriting demos put out by Zane records of Austrailia. Google them and buy those CDs. Both works-in-progress and finished songs are featured and the CDs are riveting. Also find Hard Luck Guy which was released in 1997 on the revived Capricorn label. Twenty years after screwing him and two years after his death, the label released what may actually be his best album – comprised of what he was working on before his death, it is a bittersweet listen – he seemed to have located his genius and was on the verge of putting it all back together.

Listen to these albums before you sign that record deal. And anytime you just don’t feel good about what’s going on. They are classic cry in your beer albums from an artist who could have been a legend many times over. Part of me hopes you never get sad enough to appreciate them.

The Music Nerd Knows……