Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Soul Six / Scotty Todd

The Soul Six story is a little unorthodox for an investigation of the history behind soul recordings. This band did some time in the studio but never actually made it to vinyl. The Soul Six will almost certainly be unknown to even the most experienced rare soul collector over in the UK or Europe. These guys were popular locally, however, and if you were a Wilmington resident or were going to gigs in North Carolina and Virginia between 1966 and 1969 you are very likely to have heard of this band. I stumbled across The Soul Six in the course of research for this project and promised to tell their story, not only for history’s sake, but because it typifies what many beach and garage bands where about; teenage kids having fun whilst making great music; and even if they didn’t make it big time, at least there was the opportunity to brush with some big name stars.

Whilst following up leads for information in an earlier chapter, Chuck Shipton from The Generation informed the author of another Wilmington band he used to play with called Brass Park, in the seventies. Chuck knew Tim Newell, a band member from The Soul Six, the precursor to Brass Park and put us in touch. Members at various points of its history were Stacy Jackson (guitar), Tim Newell (drums), John Jordan (bass), Herbie Parham (keyboards), Jack Kelly (trumpet), Frank Lane (saxophone) and two other sax players at various points, Eddie Blair (who also played keyboards) and Wayne Sigmon (on baritone saxophone). Vocalists included Lacy Newton (1966), Kenny Stokes (1967), Cleon ‘Pop’ Fredlaw (1967-1968), Scotty Todd (1968) and Mack Simpson (1969). Tim sent this piece on the band’s history:

“The Soul Six were formed in 1966 when a group called The Four Dimensions added horn players and a black singer to begin playing soul and R&B. The members were aged 15 to 18 years at the time the band was formed. The six-piece band name was always The Soul Six featuring the current vocalist, i.e. the seventh member. In the early years we played for high school dances, college fraternity parties, and music clubs in the Carolinas covering Motown, the music of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Augusta and what was being played on the juke boxes at the Carolina and Virginia beaches. The original vocalist Lacy Newton was an incredible black singer known for his amazing performance of James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please”, including the dance moves and cape routine. When Newton was drafted into the Army in late 1966 he was replaced with Kenny Stokes, another black singer who always nailed Billy Stewart’s hit version of “Summertime”. A year later Stokes was replaced with Cleon “Pop” Fredlaw with his powerful, melodic voice and broad song repertoire. In the summer of ’67 the band was booked to play the entire summer on a large fishing boat at Carolina Beach, NC that ran moonlight cruises in the evenings. The Soul Six played every night that it was not raining, sometimes as many as four or five cruises a night. After that summer the band was really tight. In early 1968 we signed with Bowmar Productions in Wilson, NC, as the booking agency and the venues began to expand."

"In the summer of ’68 the band was booked to back the blue-eyed soul singer Scotty Todd" Tim went on. "We toured the Carolinas and Virginia that summer and disbanded in the fall when several band members left for colleges in different cities. Later that fall the band reformed at East Carolina University with original members Tim Newell, Jack Kelly, and Frank Lane plus new members Eddie Blair, Wayne Sigmon, and Mack Simpson. We were picked up by the Charlotte, NC booking agency Hit Attractions and played mostly college events, fraternity parties, music clubs, and music showcases that included well known R&B headliners of the day. We opened for Jackie Wilson at an R&B showcase in Charlotte and backed several well known R&B singers at clubs and concerts including Major Lance, James and Bobby Purify, Arthur Conley, Spyder Turner and others. In the summer of ’69 The Soul Six were booked as the house band at the Ocean Plaza Ballroom at Carolina Beach, NC for the entire summer season."

So, what of their recording history? As a solo artist, Scotty Todd delivered quality double sider (Philips 40459) with arguably one of the best versions of the perennial “Ain’t No Big Thing” and a take of The Magnificent Men’s “Cry With Me Baby”. This was a year before he played with the band. The Soul Six recorded several studio demo-tracks with Kenny Stokes, Cleon Fredlaw, and Scotty Todd which received limited radio air play. The band themselves never signed with a record label. However, Jack Kelly the trumpet player, archived much of the bands stuff including at least one master tape. Tim and Jack sent the author some sound files taken from the tape, which clearly demonstrated a well structured band, with a competent rhythm, horn section and vocals. Tracks included a range of popular soul covers including Chuck Jackson’s “I Don’t Want to Cry” and The Temptations' “Don’t Look Back." Possibly that of most interest to northern soul fans is a classy guitar and horn driven, mid to up-tempo rendition of Little Anthony and the Imperial’s DCP ballad “Reputation”, with Scotty Todd on lead vocals. The Soul Six’s take was a unique one, done with a Carolina 'feel' – the downside was that the original tape had perished over the years and only under a minute of this track was left intact.

An article appeared in local newspaper in 2011, where Cleon Fredlaw, now a housekeeper at Cape Fear Memorial Hospital, was located by a reporter running a local news article on the band. The result was that Jack was put in contact again with Cleon for the first time in more than 40 years and Cleon was presented with a copy of the demo tape. His children were completely unaware he sang in a soul band when he was younger. 

So what happened to The Soul Six? “In the late fall of ’69 The Soul Six became attracted to the jazz-rock sounds coming from bands like Chicago Transit Authority and Blood, Sweat & Tears” says Tim. “The repertoire changed to focus on this new music and the band reformed under the name Brass Park. That band continued to play until late 1971. Members of The Soul Six reconnected in the fall of 2010 to play for a high school reunion party at Wrightsville Beach, NC. The band is scheduled to play again for another reunion event in the fall of 2013. Although most members pursued careers other than music, most are still playing.”

Copyright  E. Mark Windle 2013.

References and resources

Chuck Shipton. Personal coms. June 2012.

Tim Newell. Personal coms. June 2012.