July 13, 2010 · 7:05 am
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, only a few men held enough water to influence the sounds of soul music on a commercial scale in Houston. The men that could put your record in the Billboard charts or put your musical career in the ground, the gate keepers so to speak of the Bayou City.
There was Don Robey, owner of the illustrious Duke-Peacock-Backbeat family of labels. He recorded everyone from Bobby Bland and Junior Parker to OV Wright and Carl Carlton. He built a small empire from his office over on 2809 Erastus Street (The building which still stands today as the Charity Baptist Church) including the legendary nightclub the Bronze Peacock.
Skipper Lee Frazier split his time as a radio DJ on KCOH 1430AM (he still broadcasts today on KWWJ 1360AM) and as owner of his Ovide Records imprint. The 1968 release of Archie Bell and the Drells “Tighten Up” firmly cemented Lee’s stature amongst the heavyweights of Texas record label men. But even if it didn’t, having other acts like the TSU Toronadoes and Masters of Soul on his roster certainly did.
But neither Robey nor Lee had the influence on the scale that Huey Meaux had.
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July 8, 2010 · 3:08 pm
Archie Bell Tightens Up
Photo by Mark Roach
Last Week, I went out with Photographer Mark Roach and Assistant Extraordinaire Alex LaRotta to finally meet Mr. Tighten Up, Archie Bell and his lovely wife Juanita in the flesh. If you want to write and record the history of Houston soul music, you’d be hard pressed to come up with someone else that played such a vital roll in the story to start with.
The two were nothing but a pleasure to spend the afternoon with and Archie loaded us up with stories about starting out in Houston, what it was like touring Africa and plenty of other nuggets. Most interesting were some facts I had never learned in my years of research like the different figures that filled rolls as members of his group The Drells through their career and how Archie may have got his start in one very, very, very infamous local high school band.
You’ll be able to read all about it when the Bayou City Soul Project finishes later this year. Until then, check out a few of these great photos Mr. Roach took to tide you over and watch this video of Archie Bell and the Drells doing a live version of “Tighten Up.”
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