We’ve been in soul mode since the passing of Don Cornelius, so let’s continue the theme with a survey from KATZ in St. Louis dated February 6, 1969. KATZ was once one of America’s great soul radio stations, and surely the hippest trip in that town back then.
1. “Baby Baby Don’t Cry”/Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (holding at 1). If I asked you to name the great Miracles hits, it would take you a while to get to this one, if you got it at all. It’s the only one of Smokey’s six Top-10 hits with the Miracles that’s not numbered among the first rank of Motown classics (the others are “Shop Around,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Mickey’s Monkey,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “Tears of a Clown”). Once you’ve heard it, however, you won’t overlook it again. “Baby Baby Don’t Cry” has everything—gorgeous playing by the Funk Brothers, sensitive singing by Smokey, and one of the great rhymes in all of music: “has to be” with “catastrophe.” (Take that, Fogelberg.)
2. “Everyday People”/Sly and the Family Stone (holding at 2). Never has a bass player been funkier playing just one note, but what makes “Everyday People” great is the singsong chorus that belies the song’s serious message.
8. “Grits Ain’t Groceries”/Little Milton (up from 10). The biography of Little Milton is to a certain extent the story of soul itself: sharecropper’s son from Mississippi goes to Memphis, meets Sam Phillips and starts his career on the chitlin’ circuit, is signed by Chicago label Chess, cuts a string of hits for the associated Checker label before Chess fails (including “We’re Gonna Make It,” (his biggest hit), records with Stax until that label fails, records for TK until that label fails, records for many years at Malaco (which does not fail), and remains on the road until his death, in 2005. “Grits Ain’t Groceries” is pure folk poetry: “If I don’t love you baby / Grits ain’t groceries / Eggs ain’t poultry / And Mona Lisa was a man.”
9. “Give It Up or Turnit A Loose”/James Brown (up from 13). This is not “Give It Up (Turn It Loose),” which Tyrone Davis would score with a few years later—“Give It Up or Turnit A Loose” is another of Brown’s insistently funky exhortations to move, some of which would be recycled on “Sex Machine.” The scream that starts it wasn’t originally part of the recording—it was spliced in from elsewhere to create a more exciting opening.
17. “My Whole World Ended”/David Ruffin (debut). Ruffin wanted to be billed above the Temptations just as Diana Ross was billed above the Supremes, but he ended up getting sacked instead. “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” crossed over to pop and was a promising start to a solo career—like “Baby Baby Don’t Cry,” it’s a top-10 hit that has not maintained an honored place in the Motown canon. But it also provides a bit of foreshadowing: Ruffin’s career did not take off like Diana’s did. Months later, Ruffin charted again with the equally foreshadowy “I’ve Lost Everything I Ever Loved,” which missed the pop Top 40. He wouldn’t get back to it until “Walk Away From Love” early in 1976.
There’s a tremendous collection of KATZ surveys at ARSA, especially heavy on the period 1966 to 1969. They contain a lot of music history that happened well outside the pop Top 40.
On the flip, the football.