WFMU Ichiban, Rock and Soul with Debbie D

Friday, February 24, 2012

Joe Tex month day 24: The Soul Clan

In 1968 Joe Tex found himself in yet another one of those situtations where he was ahead of his time and involved in something that has interesting echoes in modern day soul, r&b and rap: the Soul Clan.

Originally conceived by Don Covay and Solomon Burke, the original Soul Clan was supposed to be the following individuals: Covay, Burke, JT, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. 

The idea was that these huge soul stars would record together, pool their resources, and become a positive force for the black community. They would take the proceeds from their recordings and set up trust funds for their children and for the community. The concept was sort of like an early version of, say, Roc-a-Fella records, and was in part inspired by Sam Cooke's forming of SAR records - the notion that the best way for black entertainers to achieve financial independence by setting up their own collective.

Unfortunately, Otis died in the plane crash, and Pickett backed out, claiming he didn't need to be a part of the Soul Clan, that he had plenty of hits on his own. Redding was replaced by Arthur Conley, Pickett by Ben E. King. The group released their first 45, which was supposed to set them on a pathway to world domination.

But the only thing that ever came of the Soul Clan concept beyond that 45 was a single, dodgy, compilation LP. 

The recording itself also has something of the vibe of later hip-hop singles, where rappers guest on each other's records - all the vocals were done around a pre-recorded backing track in separate studios at separate times, with the performers each taking a verse, doing their own schtick and call outs, based around their own hits and personas. The Soul Clan never really met in the studio.

Solomon Burke claimed the Soul Clan 45 was stopped on its run up the charts by mysterious corporate forces, who shut the record down.

"The Soul Clan was deliberately destroyed because we were becoming a power structure. Our interest as a Soul Clan was to build a financial empire, and once that was found out, we were destroyed."

Whether this is true, or if it's more likely that the Soul Clan single didn't top the charts because it depends more on star caché than truly good songs or artistic chemistry, is at this point a matter of speculation. It's still a heck of a thing to get to listen to.

King, Tex, Covay, Pickett and Burke - from an apparently disastrous 
attempt at a reunion gig in the early 80s

Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music is the source for this post. The book remains a great read 26 years later.