Dave Hamilton's Detroit Dancers
We all know that the music industry was blessed by the talent of 'back room boys', 'unsung hero's' and 'mystery men' who, throughout their working lives, left pieces of magic wherever they went.
The perseverance of manic record collectors and deranged trainspotters has always ensured that past wrongs are righted, jigsaws pieced together and credit given where credit is due. It is only fitting, therefore, that Kent Records, champions of those whose contributions are often relegated to a one-liner in the autobiographies of their peers, should be the ones to reveal the identity of a man who had spent his life sitting quietly in the back room waiting for his artistry to be acknowledged.
Dave Hamilton is, without doubt, one of those 'unsung heroes' and this compilation, the first in a series dedicated to producers, arrangers, writers and musicians who have moulded the shape of soul music, is the first opportunity many of us have been given to fully appreciate the depth of Hamilton's talent.
Hamilton entered the music business at a very tender age. As an 18 year old he was touring with the Helen Pennilton Quartet and at 23 had his own band, the Noc-Tunes, who cut sides for Sensation. By 1963 he was an integral part of the Detroit music scene, finding himself in constant demand for session work. Contact with Berry Gordy, from playing on Jackie Wilson's Lonely Teardrops, resulted in a solo LP for Workshop Jazz and regular session work at the Hitsville Studios where his guitar graced tracks such as My Guy and Stubborn Kind Of Fellow. He also played the lead guitar on John Lee Hooker's legendary Boom Boom and helped out Hank Ballard & The Midnighters' on several of their Federal sides. This album contains a number of instrumental tracks that illustrate why he was such 'hot property' at the time.
On a personal level, this is a significant release as it ends a seventeen year wait, more than half of my life, to own a recording of the legendary cover-up When He's Not Around by Rose Valentine & The Sisters Three. First played by Richard Searling in 1980, this track has haunted and fascinated me ever since. Even after all these years, the hair still stands up on the back of my neck when I hear it, and will continue to do so until the day I die.
The quest to ascertain its true identity has fuelled countless rumours, theories and attempts to uncover its true origin. I recall playing the track over the phone to Dale Warren and Sylvia Moy. They thought the mystery singer was Orthea Barnes. When I finally tracked down Orthea she told me, almost apologetically, that it wasn't her. Another dead end.
Fortunately for us, Gilly's detective work proved to be more fruitful and not only do we now know that the singer is Little Ann but the wheels he set in motion have resulted in the long overdue release of the track.
This album is crammed with Detroit tunes that are equally fascinating. It incorporates a number of different musical styles - from uptempo dancefloor killers, to downtempo sophistication, and all that's good in-between. The illuminating sleeve notes by Ady Croasdell offer us a rare glimpse into the creative process at work behind the scenes and, at the same time, enable us to appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to add this masterpiece to our collections.
This album, the first of two, is a fitting tribute to Dave Hamilton. If he was here with us now I know he'd be smiling - ANDY RIX