Big Weekend for The Bachelors. We decided on a title for the David Lee compilation of Impel/Washington Sound/SCOP releases: “Said I Had Vision,” a line appropriated from the D. Lee original “Vision,” as performed by Joe Brown and the Melleraires. We also started a Facebook.com page for the tech-savvy out there: search for “Paradise of Bachelors” on the Book of Faces for news, including announcements about upcoming live PA Soundystem events, like our appearance at Fuse in Chapel Hill, NC this Thursday evening, January 28, 2010.
We spent an illuminating and pleasant afternoon in Mooresboro, North Carolina with the Lees; Harold Allen, Don Camp, William “Butch” Mitchell, and Benjamin and Bryan “Brownie” Guest of the Constellations. Hearing these gentlemen’s stories about unflagging brotherhood, camaraderie, and the timelessness of “love ballads”–in the face of physical threats, racist invective, and a Southern and national climate opposed to their very existence–was truly inspiring. The Constellations were the first mixed-race combo in the area, and they did it as mere kids, getting started in 1958 or 1959 as teenagers and only dissolving upon the departure of members to Vietnam in 1964 and 1965.
In that time, they recorded six energetic sides for David Lee, all of which belie their tender ages, plus two unreleased tracks–”Have You Seen My Baby?” and “I Want to Jerk”–which Mr. Lee sent to Benjamin Guest while he was serving in Vietnam. Those tapes may yet emerge for your delectation…
We spent Saturday evening in the warmly reminiscing company of Bobby “Pepperhead” London, onetime lead singer of rival group the Ambassadors and another Shelby legend. He and his brother-in-law and former manager Mack Hardy held forth about the Old Days, the importance of songcraft, and the wealth of local talent native to the NC/SC borderlands west of Charlotte. Mack sold us some terrific 45s, for which we thank him.
The story does not end there, friends. After enjoying a liver mush-enhanced breakfast (a Cleveland County organ meat specialty), we spent a mellow Sunday afternoon with Mr. Joe Brown of the Exciting Singing Mellerairs aka Melloaires, the gospel crux of “Said I Had a Vision” and one of the men who originally brought that title to life through song. Mr. Brown has been singing gospel professionally for over fifty years, and his limpid voice has been a powerful force in testifying and captivating audiences throughout his long career. We still have to scan the early photos of Mr. Brown and Co. that he kindly lent us, but here are a few photos we took on that misty afternoon on his property on the NC/SC border. Much more on Joe Brown forthcoming.