Jul 2014 / MIKKI




The frequent declarations that rock and roll is the “devil’s music” have a long and unfortunate history and continue to the present day.  Like anything else, all human endeavors can be used for good and for evil, and the term had been applied to jazz decades earlier.  By the time I was in college at the end of the 1960’sthe John Birch Society and other such groups had changed tactics slightly and were pushing two publications by David A. Noebel called Rhythm, Riots and Revolution (on “the Communist Master Music Plan”) and Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles.  Practically my first week at college at North Carolina State University in September 1969, I went to an old building on the other side of campus to what I thought would be a “guitar” worship service; where I showed up turned out to be a traditional Catholic mass (my first).  


In any case, the fight was lost decades ago; there is scarcely a church today that does not have a “contemporary” worship service (where Christian-themed popular music is sung, often accompanied by a full rock band) – the “traditional” service that I grew up with is probably in the minority these days. 


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Anyway, gospel music is part of the roots of rock and roll.  Many if not most people who start out singing for a living had their first exposure in the church choir; two of the great soul singers started that way, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner


An incredible album that I picked up several years ago, This is How it All Began – on Specialty Records – is not the typical compilation album, but a carefully selected series of songs that looked (and sounded) like they might have come from someone’s doctoral dissertation on the origins of rock music.  I only have the disk now naturally, but I remember that it was divided into four sections, with “Gospel” being the first.  The four songs that start the album are these:  “It’s Getting Late in the Evening” by Chosen Gospel Singers; “By and By” by the Soul Stirrers; “Somebody Touched Me” by Prof. Alex Bradford; and “Trouble in My Way” by the Swan Silvertones


Major and minor artists alike often have spiritually themed songs or overtly Christian songs on their albums.  The first cut on Simon and Garfunkel’s debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. is a gospel song called You Can Tell the World that was written by Gibson & Camp (Bob Gibson and Bob Camp – later known as Hamilton Camp).  Peter, Paul and Mary had numerous gospel songs on their albums, including “This Train” on their first album, Peter, Paul and Mary.  Also on this album, under the name “If I Had My Way”, is a traditional song also called “Samson and Delilah” that is based on the Biblical account.  Many other rock musicians have recorded this song, notably the Grateful DeadBob DylanIke and Tina TurnerBruce Springsteen, and Garbage front woman Shirley Manson


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What is now called contemporary Christian music or Christian contemporary music (CCM) grew out of the “Jesus people” or “Jesus movement” that arose from the hippie subculture in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  This is not as outlandish as you might think.  People in the counterculture rebelled against the larger society, but a likely majority eventually returned to it nonetheless.  Whether with or without chemical assistance, meditation was a common pastime, and that leads to a spiritual mindset.  Experimentation with Eastern religions was popular, and many might later turn to Christianity.  What’s more, the joys of hedonism can run thin after a while. 


Besides becoming an important component of the evangelical Christian movement of the 1970’s and 1980’s, some Christian organizations trace their roots to the Jesus movement, notably Calvary Chapel.  One of the earliest Christian rock bands, Love Song came from Calvary Chapel.  


Originally “Jesus music” or “Jesus rock” was not recorded but only sung among people at a gathering.  Wikipedia mentions Larry Norman as a pioneer of CCM with his 1969 debut solo album Upon this Rock.  Norman had previously been the lead singer and chief songwriter for a band called People! who had a 1968 hit with the Zombies song “I Love You”.  A second album listed by Wikipedia is the 1970 release, Mylon – We Believe by Mylon LeFevre and Broken HeartJoe South appears as a guest musician.  


Barry McGuire had a prominent and influential hit song in 1965 with “Eve of Destruction” (written by P. F. Sloan); he was with New Christy Minstrels for a time and sung lead on their first hit song, “Green, Green”.  McGuire became a born again Christian in 1971 and released an album on Myrrh Records in 1973 called Seeds.  Singing background vocals on the album is a family trio that later became an early CCM band, 2nd Chapter of Acts.  


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Phil Keaggy is another pioneer in CCM that I have some familiarity with.  He was in a 1960’s garage rock band from Youngstown, Ohio called the Squires and released a single called “Batmobile” that is included on Highs in the Mid-Sixties, Volume 9.  In 1968, he was a co-founder of Glass Harp, a band that became one of the most popular in Northeast Ohio and is now regarded as one of the earliest of the “jam rock” bands. 


After the death of his mother from injuries in an auto accident, Phil Keaggy became a Christian; although he remained in Glass Harp, Keaggy began introducing Christian witness into their recordings.  About the band’s second album, SynergyPhil Keaggy is quoted in Wikipedia as having said:  “That album was a real experience because I was able to sing ‘The Answer’, a song I wrote right after my conversion to Christ.  And with . . . producers and an engineer that didn’t care about Jesus, I was surprised that out of 15 songs, one of the 10 that got on the album was The Answer’.  I praise Jesus for that work, because it’s just a simple song of testimony.” 


Phil Keaggy left Glass Harp in 1972 and released his first solo album in 1973 called What a Day; the songs were all written when he was still with Glass Harp.  The same year he joined Love Song briefly and has become a fixture in the CCM movement.  Ted Nugent was quoted in 1989 in Wikipedia as saying:  “I don’t know what happened to that Phil Keaggy.  He could have saved the world with his guitar.” 


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Like another English band, the Yardbirdsthe Strawbs (also known as Strawbs) is known as much for its previous musicians as it is for its early folk-rock and progressive-rock albums.  Founded as a bluegrass band in 1964 called the Strawberry Hill Boys, their repertoire began to shift more toward folk rock, with longtime leader Dave Cousins writing much of their material.  Sandy Denny was invited to join the Strawbs, and they recorded an album together in 1967 that was ultimately released in 1972 as All Our Own Work, under the name Sandy Denny and the Strawbs


The album includes an early version of one of Sandy Denny’s best-known songs, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”; Denny later recorded “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” with Fairport Convention when she became their lead singer in mid-1968.  Judy Collins heard a demo of the song and decided to include it as the title song of one of her best albums, Who Knows Where the Time Goes.  “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” was also released by Collins as the B-side of her #8 hit single, Both Sides Now (written by Joni Mitchell).  I remember raising eyebrows with a friend ages ago; she seemed surprised that I was familiar with Who Knows Where the Time Goes, and honestly, at that time I might only have seen the Judy Collins album rather than actually having heard the song. 


Future keyboard superstar Rick Wakeman was in the Strawbs in 1970 and 1971; he had been an active session musician, whose work includes playing mellotron on David Bowie’s first hit single, Space Oddity in June 1969.  He remained with the band for three albums but eventually left when he decided that his presence was causing both he and the Strawbs to be creatively stagnant.  Rick Wakeman joined Yes in 1971 and was with the band during their most productive period, for the albums FragileClose to the Edge, and Tales from Topographic Oceans.  Rick Wakeman started his solo career by early 1974, though he continued to play with Yes off and on over the years, including their 35th anniversary concert in 2004


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After Rick Wakeman left Strawbs, bandleader Dave Cousins consulted the I Ching to see what was next for the band.  Quoting Wikipedia:  “The answer from the coins, ‘Humble must he constant be, where the paths of wisdom lead, distant is the shadow of the setting sun’, forms part of the first two lines of the lyrics of the song [‘Benedictus’].”  


The song has a reverent tone; the frequent blessings that are included in the song – e.g., “Bless the soldier / Bless the saint / Bless all those whose hearts grow faint” – would help “Benedictus” slot right in as a praise song in a worship service.  The instrumental break is unusual for a rock song and is performed on a dulcimer that is filtered through a fuzzbox.  Benedictus is considered to be one of the signature songs of Strawbs and is included on their 1973 album, Grave New World.  My copy of the song is on a double-LP called Best of Strawbs that sounds better every time I play it.  


Also, the title “Benedictus” is the name for the second half of the Sanctus in the traditional Catholic mass.  Simon and Garfunkel included another song called “Benedictus” on their first album; its lyrics – “benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini” – are simply the Latin for “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. 


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“Why me Lord what have I ever done / To deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known / Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do / That was worth lovin’ you or the kindness you’ve shown / (chorus) Lord help me, Jesus, I’ve wasted it so / Help me Jesus I know what I am / But now that I know that I’ve needed you so / Help me, Jesus, my soul’s in your hand”.  


I cannot remember ever hearing such heartfelt Christian lyrics coming from a mainstream popular musician than these from Kris Kristofferson.  Why Me was released in April 1973 and featured background vocals from Rita Coolidge (whom he would shortly marry) and a future country star, Larry Gatlin.  “Why Me” (also known as “Why Me, Lord?”) is often regarded as the biggest gospel song of the 1970’s


The unusual charting history of Why Me is related by Wikipedia:  “‘Why Me was [Kris] Kristofferson’s lone major country hit as a solo recording artist, reaching No. 1 of Billboard magazine’s Hot Country Singles chart in July 1973.  The song, despite peaking only at No. 16 of the Billboard Hot 100, had, to that time, one of the longer runs (19 weeks) in the top 40 and the most chart reversals (6) in one run on the Hot 100.  As a result, ironically, the song managed to be ranked as the second most popular Hot 100 single of 1973.” 


Kris Kristofferson is probably better known as a songwriter – such as Janis Joplin’s posthumous hit song, “Me and Bobby McGee”, plus For the Good Times” (a hit by Ray Price, among others), “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” (recorded by Johnny Cash) and “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (Sammi Smith’s version being the most successful), which were all #1 hits on one Billboard or Canadian chart or other – or as an actor in dozens of films, such as Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, A Star Is Born, the Blade films, and The Motel Life.  He has a rough-and-tumble reputation as a hard-liver, and in part, that fuels his interest in spiritual matters.  Jesus has clearly been on his mind over the years; his album names include Jesus Was a Capricorn (simply an observation that Christmas Day falls within that astrological sign). 


Why Me was recorded by many others, among them Johnny CashElvis PresleyGeorge JonesDavid Allan CoeMerle Haggardand Cliff Richard.  


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Kris Kristofferson also co-wrote another major gospel hit song in the 1970’s, “One Day at a Time” (also the motto of Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar organizations).  He co-wrote the song with a Nashville songwriting legend, Marijohn Wilkin.  With Danny Dill, Wilkin co-wrote “The Long Black Veil” for Lefty Frizzell – this standard is such a cultural touchstone that it was even mentioned in an opinion by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1979.  Other songs that Marijohn Wilkin wrote or co-wrote include “Waterloo”, a #1 hit for Stonewall Jackson; “Cut Across Shorty”, which was recorded by Eddie CochranRod StewartFaces, and Freddie and the Dreamers; and “I Just Don’t Understand” that was covered by Ann-Margret and the Beatles


One Day at a Time” reached the Country Top 20 in the version by Marilyn Sellars in 1974 and also made #37 on the Billboard Hot 100.  One Day at a Time” was given a Dove Award by the Gospel Music Association in 1975.  Her success with writing One Day at a Time gave Marijohn Wilkin a gospel music career, and she released several albums on Word Records


At the urging of her husband Lee StollerCristy Lane made several attempts to launch a music career from the late 1960’s through the end of the 1970’s, with only minimal success.  After releasing her third album in 1979Simple Little WordsUnited Artists Records balked at Cristy Lane’s plans to release a remake of One Day at a Time, even though Lena Martell had a No. 1 hit in Great Britain with her version of “One Day at a Time” in 1979.  Instead, Liberty Records released the song and the accompanying album, Ask Me to Dance.  One Day at a Time hit #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, and the song became the cornerstone of a television and Internet marketing juggernaut for Cristy Lane’s music. 


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Among African-AmericansWikipedia notes Andraé Crouch as a founding presence in CCM.  Crouch’s beginnings in music are related in Wikipedia this way:  “His father, Benjamin Crouch, also had a street ministry and ministered in hospitals and in prison.  When [Andraé] Crouch was 11, his father was invited to preach at a small church in a farming community.  The church didn’t have a regular pastor so the bishop asked Benjamin to fill the post.  The first Sunday, Benjamin asked his son to come up front and asked, ‘Andraé, if God gave you the gift of music to play and sing for Him, would you do it for His glory all your life?’  Crouch said, ‘Yeah, Daddy.’  Weeks later, Benjamin summoned his son again as the congregation sang, with:  ‘If you’re gonna play, play.’  Crouch found the key and started to play the piano.  He soon began to write songs and lead a choir.”  


Andraé Crouch was first a member of the Church of God in Christ Singers (COGICS), which he founded in 1960; one of their members was Billy Preston.  Crouch formed a group called the Disciples in 1965, and they released their first album in 1968Take the Message Everywhere.  Crouch helped revitalize black gospel music and directly brought several successful gospel singers to the label where he recorded, Light Records, including BeBe and CeCe Winans


Andraé Crouch and the Los Angeles Church of God choir that he directed were prominently featured in the title song, Like a Prayer on Madonna’s Christian-themed album, Like a Prayer (1989).  He also performed in the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror” (1987).  


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In February 1972, one of the members of Andraé Crouch and the DisciplesSherman Andrus broke the “color barrier” in gospel music when he was brought in as the first African-American lead singer of a “mainstream” gospel groupthe Imperials.  Adopting the famous slogan of Star Trek, Andrus joked that he would “boldly go where no black man had gone before”.  


The Imperials (no relation to Little Anthony’s group) were started in 1963 by Jake Hess after he left the venerable Statesmen Quartet.  From 1966 to 1971the Imperials recorded with Elvis Presley and appeared on two of his gospel albums, How Great Thou Art and He Touched Me.  In 1969, Elvis hired the Imperials to perform with him as well after his previous background singers, the Jordanaires (also a gospel group) declined to accompany him to Las Vegas and other far-flung places. 


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One of the early songs that I remember with a Christian theme is People Get Ready, which was a #14 hit for the Impressions in 1965.  The theme is likely the tumultuous changes that were roiling the nation in the mid-1960’s, like the Civil Rights Movement; but the “train” that is mentioned frequently in this song is basically the same one in the Peter, Paul and Mary song, This Train mentioned earlier, whose lyrics include:  “This train is bound for Glory, this train”.  The songwriter, Curtis Mayfield is quoted in Wikipedia as saying of People Get Ready:  “That was taken from my church or from the upbringing of messages from the church.  Like there’s no hiding place and get on board, and images of that sort.  I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song.”  


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Are You Ready?” by Pacific, Gas and Electric is a long-time favorite of mine that is more of a straight rock song; it is sort of an analogue to People Get Ready” by the Impressions.  The band was formed in Los Angeles in 1967 with a line-up that included lead guitarist Glenn Schwartz, who was previously in the James Gang; his replacement in that band was future superstar Joe Walsh


Their biggest hit song was Are You Ready?, the title track on their third album, Are You Ready?, which came out in 1970 and reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.  This might be the first mention of the prophesied Second Coming of Jesus in popular music:  “People say that He won’t come / And I don’t know, what say you / But if He should, would you be the one? / I’ve got a little question I’d like to ask you / (chorus) Are you ready to sit by His throne? / Are you ready not to be alone? / Someone’s coming to take you home / And if you’re ready, then He’ll carry you home.”  The band had a second song crack the Top 100 in 1972, “Thank God for You, Baby”.  


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I think of “Put Your Hand in the Hand” as the quintessential early Christian contemporary song.  “Put Your Hand in the Hand” was recorded previously by Anne Murray, who is the first Canadian female solo artist to reach #1 on the U.S. charts; the song appears on her third album, Honey, Wheat and Laughter (1970).  The best known version is by Ocean (also from Canada), who reached #2 on the charts with the song in 1971; others who have recorded the song include Elvis PresleyJoan BaezFrankie Laine, and Loretta Lynn.  Evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong performed “Put Your Hand in the Hand” on Hee Haw in early 1976.  


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Spirit in the Sky” by Jewish-American singer-songwriter Norman Greenbaum is one of the biggest Christian-themed songs in music.  Spirit in the Sky sold 2,000,000 copies and reached the top of the charts in the U.K.Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Germany; it went to #3 in the U.S.  Norman Greenbaum remains a practicing Jew and was inspired to write and record the song while watching Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner sing a religious song on television.  


The song itself has an unexpected source of inspiration; as quoted in WikipediaNorman Greenbaum said in an interview:  “If you ask me what I based ‘Spirit in the Sky’ on . . . what did we grow up watching?  Westerns!  These mean and nasty varmints get shot and they wanted to die with their boots on.  So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on. . . .  It wasn’t like a Christian song of praise, it was just a simple song.  I had to use Christianity because I had to use something.  But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky.”  


There have been several cover versions over the years; two that I have are by Doctor and the Medics – who also reached #1 on the U.K. charts with “Spirit in the Sky” (Gareth Gates is yet a third artist who reached Number One in the U.K. with “Spirit in the Sky”) – and by the all-female band Fuzzbox


Norman Greenbaum was previously in a psychedelic rock band called Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, and he sang lead vocals on their novelty hit song, “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” (1966). 


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The Doobie Brothers formed in 1970 and began performing live throughout northern California, attracting a particularly strong following among the Hells Angels.  The Doobies would have fit right into the discussion last month about bands who changed their styles considerably over the course of their career; they had two very different lead singers in quick succession during the 1970’sTom Johnston and Michael McDonald, yet scarcely missed a beat in scoring hit songs.  


I always thought that “Jesus is Just Alright” was their first hit song, but it was actually the third single released by the Doobie Brothers (in late 1972), after “Listen to the Music”.  While originally peaking at #35, the song quickly became a staple of classic rock stations.  “Jesus is Just Alright” was originally recorded by the Art Reynolds Singers on their 1966 album, Tellin’ It Like It Is.  Among rock bands, the Byrds actually recorded “Jesus is Just Alright” first, including it on their 1969 album, Ballad of Easy Rider.  Other versions have been recorded by Alexis Korner and the Ventures.  In the CCM world, DC Talk put “Jesus Is Just Alright” on their 1992 album, Free at Last; the early Christian heavy metal band Stryper included “Jesus Is Just Alright” on their 2013 album, No More Hell to Pay.  


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Terri Gibbs had a major crossover hit with her debut 1981 single, Somebody’s Knockin’ which reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary charts.  Although not overtly Christian, her gospel roots show through clearly on this number – in the guise of a woman being tempted for “one heavenly night” with “the devil . . . in blue eyes and blue jeans”, she quips:  “My fever’s burning, so he ought to be right at home”.  


Born blind, Terri Gibbs began playing the piano when she was only three.  After hearing her sing, Nashville legend Chet Atkins asked her for a demo tape, and she came to Nashville and then Miami while still in her teens, where she played keyboards for a band called Sound Dimension.  Gibbs then played locally for several years as the Terri Gibbs Trio in and around her hometown of Augusta, GA


Her demo tape eventually made its way to a producer and songwriter named Ed Penney, who signed her to a recording contract with MCA Records.  Somebody’s Knockin’ earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song, and the accompanying album, Somebody’s Knockin’ won the Academy of Country Music Award for Best New Country Artist and the inaugural Horizon Award (for an artist gaining new recognition) from the Country Music Association Awards.  Terri Gibbs toured with George Jones and sang duets with him; she also performed at the Grand Ole Opry.  


I have Terri Gibbs’ first album – rated 4 stars by Allmusic – and every song is rendered well in her understated but expressive voice.  Her follow-up single “Rich Man” made the Country Top 20, as did two later singles.  Her 1987 album, Turn Around was also nominated for a Grammy and generated three hit singles on the CCM charts.   


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The brightly-colored cover on the self-titled album by this month’s Under-Appreciated Rock Artist of the MonthMIKKI has only the name in large lettering, and there are no photos included; so I really didn’t know what to expect when I uncovered the LP a decade or so back.  The first two song titles on Side 1 are the same, so that usually indicates a dance album.  However, there is a remarkable variety of material on the album; most Internet sources put it in the Soul and Funk categories. 


I had to dig around quite a lot on the Internet (as usual); one entry on Mikki is by a kindred spirit who writes about Rare and Obscure Music on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/pages/Rare-and-Obscure-Music/133581693333210 .


Mikki was born Mikki Farrow in Detroit.  She met and married a legendary saxophone player named Andrew “Mike” Terry in the mid-1960’s.  In his Allmusic entry, Jason Ankeny writes:  “The baritone saxophone of Andrew ‘Mike’ Terry remains an indelible component of the famed Motown sound. . . .  Terry’s résumé reads like a roll call of soul’s greatest hits – his Motown track record alone spans chart smashes including the Four Tops’ ‘I Can’t Help Myself’, the Isley Brothers’ ‘This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)’, Kim Weston’s ‘Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)’, and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Baby Don't You Do It’; and as a freelancer, he played on monsters like Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’, the Fascinations’ ‘Girls Are out to Get You’, and the Capitols’ ‘Cool Jerk’.” 


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In 1966Andrew “Mike” Terry arranged both sides of a single on Karate Records, “Could it Be” b/w “Set My Heart at Ease” for Mikki Farrow; he also co-write “Could it Be with Jack Ashford.  In 2013Set My Heart at Ease was reissued on Pied Piper Records backed with a song by September Jones called “I’m Coming Home”.  


Both songs are now recognized as classic Northern Soul”.  Northern Soul is a term for music and dance styles that actually grew out of the Mod movement in England, so the reference in this case is more to the recordings that originally led to this movement:  obscure American soul music having the Motown influence that were typically not hit songs.  On dustygroove.com is this comment about the Mikki Farrow song:  “‘Set My Heart at Ease is an upbeat groove from Mikki Farrow – produced perfectly by the Pied Piper team, who build things wonderfully in a very short space – and really out-Motown Motown with the groove!”  


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Could it Beappears on a British compilation CD called Northern Soul Satisfaction that is subtitled “30 Tracks from Northern Soul’s Golden Era”.  The song is also on a 2013 CD on Kent Records called Pied Piper Presents A New Concept In Detroit Soul.  The website popsike.com lists numerous auctions of this Mikki Farrow 45 at prices as high as $1,111.  


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Mikki Farrow moved to Philadelphia in 1968 to get involved in the soul music scene there.  As noted on the Rare and Obscure Music post:  “Mikki worked as a songwriter and background singer, working with artists such as Archie Bell and the DrellsLoleatta HollowayBlue Magic, and the Trammps.”  


Besides providing background singing for the classic Archie Bell and the Drells song “I Can’t Stop Dancing”, Mikki Farrow co-wrote “Green Power” with Mervin Steals and Melvin Steals; the song was on their third and final album for Atlantic RecordsThere’s Gonna be a Showdown (1969).  The two Stealses (credited as Mystro & Lyric) later wrote “Could it Be I’m Falling in Love”, a huge hit for the Spinners.  


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The highest profile time for Mikki Farrow in the music business was probably on several recordings that she worked on with Jerry Butler.  Butler was in the same Chicago church choir with Curtis Mayfield; the two joined three members of another band, brothers Arthur Brooks and Richard Brooks plus Sam Gooden.  They modified the other band’s name slightly and called themselves the Roosters


In 1957, the band changed its name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions; they had an unforgettable hit in 1958 with “For Your Precious Love” (Butler had written the lyrics when he was only 16).  Jerry Butler and the band parted amicably later that year, and Butler launched a solo career; his 1960 single “He Will Break Your Heart” hit #1.  


Although primarily based in ChicagoJerry Butler was signed by Mercury Records in 1967 and connected with the Philadelphia production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.  The result was Butler’s most successful album (and the first full-length album by Gamble and Huff), The Ice Man Cometh.  


Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff founded Philadelphia International Records in 1971 and (as Allmusic put it) “ruled the mid-’70s R&B world with the same sound”.  Major artists that were signed to the label include the O’JaysHarold Melvin and the Blue NotesLou Rawls, the Three Degrees, and Billy Paul.  Blue Notes lead singer Teddy Pendergrass later signed a solo deal.  


The Ice Man Cometh proved highly influential; John Bush noted in Allmusic that the album “marks an excellent collaboration, the first time R&B production techniques reached a level of maturity and elegance capable of fully complementing one of the smoothest vocalists in soul history”.  In 1969Elvis Presley recorded one of the hits from The Ice Man Cometh, “Only the Strong Survive”.  The Ice Man Cometh, along with the follow-up album Ice on Ice were jointly reissued on a 2001 CD called The Philadelphia Sessions.  


Mikki Farrow co-wrote one of the songs on The Ice Man Cometh, “(Strange) I Still Love You” with Jerry Butler and Norman Harris; she had previously participated in a songwriters’ workshop hosted by Jerry Butler in Chicago.  According to the book A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul by John A. Jackson, the uncredited female vocals on the two Jerry Butler albums, The Ice Man Cometh and Ice on Ice were by Mikki FarrowJean Thomas and Tina Thomas.  “(Strange) I Still Love You” was later included on Margie Joseph’s 1974 album, Sweet Surrender.  


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In the late 1960’sMikki Farrow was in a group called the Producers with Karl ChambersKenny GambleLeon HuffRoland ChambersThom Bell, and Win Wilford.  They released one single on Huff Puff Records (named for Leon Huff, and having a simply adorable label), “Love is Amazing” b/w “Lady, Lady, Lady”.  Mikki provides lead vocals and co-wrote Love is Amazing with Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell; while Lady, Lady, Lady is a gorgeous instrumental version of a Dee Dee Sharp song, “What Kind of Lady”.  


Writing for funky16corners.comLarry Grogan writes:  “‘Love is Amazing’ is one of those records that has everything going for it, from top-shelf songwriting (Kenny Gamble, [Mikki] Farrow and Thom Bell), fantastic production (Gamble/Huff) and a fantastic lead vocal by Farrow (I suspect that Gamble is the supporting male vocalist).  The record, matching superb melody and hooks with enough rhythmic heat for the dancers, ought to have been a hit, instead of the footnote that it is.” 


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Apparently the only album made by Mikki Farrow is simply called Mikki; it has a brightly colored front cover and not much else.  There are no songwriter, producer, arranger, or musician credits (only music publishing companies are given); the credits say only that the Dub Mix of “Itching for Love” was remixed by Sergio Munzibai and John Morales.  (The 12-inch single shows the songwriters of Itching for Love” as being Mikki FarrowNorman Harris, and Eugene “Lambchops” Curry).  Zak Master Funk, writing on a French-language blog (zakmasterfunk.blogspot.com) says that this “superb” album was produced by Mikki Farrow and Norman Harris (“The Harris Machine” is how he puts it), who also plays guitar; Jimmy Williams is the bassist. 


My guess is that Mikki Farrow wrote or co-wrote all or most of the songs; regardless, Mikki’s singing is top drawer, the arrangements are fantastic, and all of the songs are winners.   


The album was released in 1982 on Emerald International Records, a small Philadelphia label whose other artists – Spaze-Ka-Dett and Jamo – are similarly anonymous.  (Jamo’s full name is Jamo Thomas; he is a soul singer from the Bahamas). 


The blog dustygroove.com has a rave review of Mikki:  “Late Philly soul – a batch of smooth modern numbers sung by Mikki and featuring production and arrangements by Norman Harris!  The centerpiece of the album is the club track Itching for Love, which is presented here in both a long vocal and dub version – but there’s actually some great mellow tracks on the record that we like even more – nice tunes that hit a midtempo or slower groove, done with a confident female vocal style that sounds a bit like later Jean Carn.  Titles include ‘Itching for Love’, ‘He Is’, ‘Never Enough Time’, ‘Look Before You Leap’, and ‘Right In The Middle’.”  


My Lord, Sweet Lord” is a lovely gospel number that starts Side 2; Mikki ended her music career in gospel music.  The full name of the most ambitious song on the album (and one of my favorites) is “He Is (What Every Woman Should Know About Her Man)”.  


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The label released two 12-inch singles from the Mikki album, Itching for Love (as noted earlier, two versions of this song that total over 16 minutes open Side 1 of Mikki) and “Look Before You Leap”.  As noted on Rare and Obscure MusicItching for Love was on the Billboard Black Singles charts for 13 weeks, peaking at #67 in November 1982; while Look Before You Leap made it to #82 in April 1983.  Evidently the album never charted.  


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In 1984Mikki released another 12-inch single, “Love Emergency” on Rams Horn Records and Pop Art Records; this was her best success on the charts (#59).  Lawrence Goodman wrote, produced and arranged the song.  

Dance Lover” came out the following year under the name Mikki featuring Starz (evidently not the 1970’s rock band Starz, though anything is possible I guess).   


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Mikki Farrow moved to Chicago in the late 1980’s; she began dating Billy Butler (the brother of her one-time mentor, Jerry Butler) and later married him.  Long before they married, Mikki Farrow and Billy Butler wrote a song, “Ever Since I Can Remember” that appears on Jerry Butler’s 1973 album, The Love We Have, The Love We Had.  


Though not nearly so well known as Jerry ButlerBilly Butler was also a professional musician who was mainly active in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Curtis Mayfield supervised his first session at Okeh Records, and that label released his first album, Right Track (1966).  He later formed a vocal group called Infinity, which released a 1973 album called Hung up on You.  


In 2007Kent Records put together a CD called The Right Tracks, covering 29 of the recordings that Billy Butler made at Okeh Records.  Writing for AllmusicRichie Unterberger gives the CD 4½ stars and says:  “First and foremost, [Billy] Butler, though far less celebrated than his older brother Jerry Butler, was a fine singer and songwriter in his own right, producing consistently good pop-soul discs that were rather reminiscent of the Impressions (and, at times, Major Lance, another Chicago soul artist with strong connections to Curtis Mayfield). In addition, if you are a fan of Mayfield’s mid-’60s work with the Impressions and as a songwriter/producer, this has some of his best overlooked work in the latter capacity.”  


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Mikki Farrow started an evangelical ministry and pursued her love of gospel music.  Apparently she never released any other recordings.  She died on February 10, 2002 after she and Billy Butler had two daughters, Ebony and Dawn


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Flashback:  The Under-Appreciated Rock Band of the Month for July 2012 – DEAD HIPPIE 


I first learned of Dead Hippie from their appearance on the late-night L.A. punk rock showcase New Wave Theatre; I later was able to find their only album, Living Dead.  The meticulous discography website Discogs lists the album under the categories:  Punk, Goth Rock, Deathrock, Hardcore, Psychobilly, and Psychedelic Rock


Songs by Dead Hippie are rather hard to turn up on YouTube, but I have found some.  Big Train, the song that I quoted in my UARB post can be heard at:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDVyiZeL3ss .  A little more mellow song, Slave Babies” is available (also audio only) at:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9EEDyANTIw .  Here’s one more, the title song from the album, Living Dead”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_80zoOxyew .  


The full-length (half-hour) New Wave Theatre episode that includes the Dead Hippie performance that I saw is also on YouTube at:  www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dead+hippie+new+wave+theatre .  I can’t find the excerpt anymore that only shows Dead Hippie.  


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Picture Galley:  The Under-Appreciated Rock Band of the Month for July 2011 – THE RIP CHORDS  


Here are their two albums; this one includes their smash hit, Hey Little Cobra




This one has their follow-up single, Three Window Coupe:   



This is a photo of the original band at a recording session:  




These are the two guys who joined the touring band:  




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Story of the Month:  The Million Dollar Quartet (from May 2011)  




In 1956Sun Records was able to show off by hosting an impromptu jam session by the Million Dollar Quartethaving a genuinely stupendous line-up:  Elvis PresleyCarl PerkinsJohnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis (Sun-signed artists all, though Elvis was by now at RCA).  Most agree though that Sun had begun to lose its edge by the end of the decade. 


As to the QuartetElvis was drafted into the Army in 1958; when he returned to music two years later, his recordings were quite different and continued to evolve over time.  Johnny Cash became one of country music’s greatest artists; and Jerry Lee Lewis made a similarly seamless transition to country and is generally regarded as one of the premier piano players in any musical form. 


Meanwhile, Carl Perkins was beginning to slip into obscurity and was in danger of being known only as the songwriter and original performer of one of Elvis’ signature songs, Blue Suede Shoes (though I prefer Carl’s version of Blue Suede Shoes myself).  However, the Beatles gave Perkins’ career new life when they covered several of his songs early on, notably Honey, Don’t”.  


* * *
The Honor Roll of the Under Appreciated Rock Bands and Artists follows, in date order, including a link to the original Facebook posts and the theme of the article.
Dec 2009BEAST; Lot to Learn
Jan 2010WENDY WALDMAN; Los Angeles Singer-Songwriters
Feb 2010 CYRUS ERIE; Cleveland
Mar 2010BANG; Record Collecting I
Apr 2010THE BREAKAWAYS; Power Pop
May 2010THE NOT QUITE; Katrina Clean-Up
Jun 2010WATERLILLIES; Electronica
Jul 2010THE EYES; Los Angeles Punk Rock
Aug 2010QUEEN ANNE’S LACE; Psychedelic Pop
Sep 2010THE STILLROVEN; Minnesota
Oct 2010THE PILTDOWN MEN; Record Collecting II
Nov 2010SLOVENLY; Slovenly Peter
Dec 2010THE POPPEES; New York Punk/New Wave
Jan 2011HACIENDA; Latinos in Rock
Feb 2011THE WANDERERS; Punk Rock (1970’s/1980’s)
Mar 2011INDEX; Psychedelic Rock (1960’s)
Apr 2011BOHEMIAN VENDETTA; Punk Rock (1960’s)
May 2011THE LONESOME DRIFTER; Rockabilly
Jun 2011THE UNKNOWNS; Disabled Musicians
Jul 2011THE RIP CHORDS; Surf Rock I
Aug 2011ANDY COLQUHOUN; Side Men
Sep 2011ULTRA; Texas
Oct 2011JIM SULLIVAN; Mystery
Nov 2011THE UGLY; Punk Rock (1970’s)
Dec 2011THE MAGICIANS; Garage Rock (1960’s)
Jan 2012RON FRANKLIN; Why Celebrate Under Appreciated?
Feb 2012JA JA JA; German New Wave
Mar 2012STRATAVARIOUS; Disco Music
Apr 2012LINDA PIERRE KING; Record Collecting III
May 2012TINA AND THE TOTAL BABES; One Hit Wonders
Jun 2012WILD BLUE; Band Names I
Jul 2012DEAD HIPPIE; Band Names II
Aug 2012PHIL AND THE FRANTICS; Wikipedia I
Sep 2012CODE BLUE; Hidden History
Oct 2012TRILLION; Wikipedia II
Nov 2012THOMAS ANDERSON; Martin Winfree’s Record Buying Guide
Dec 2012THE INVISIBLE EYES; Record Collecting IV
Jan 2013THE SKYWALKERS; Garage Rock Revival
Mar 2013THE GILES BROTHERS; Novelty Songs
Apr 2013LES SINNERS; Universal Language
May 2013HOLLIS BROWN; Greg Shaw / Bob Dylan
Jun 2013 (I) – FUR (Part One); What Might Have Been I
Jun 2013 (II) – FUR (Part Two); What Might Have Been II
Jul 2013THE KLUBS; Record Collecting V
Aug 2013SILVERBIRD; Native Americans in Rock
Sep 2013BLAIR 1523; Wikipedia III
Oct 2013MUSIC EMPORIUM; Women in Rock I
Nov 2013CHIMERA; Women in Rock II
Dec 2013LES HELL ON HEELS; Women in Rock III
Jan 2014BOYSKOUT; (Lesbian) Women in Rock IV
Feb 2014LIQUID FAERIES; Women in Rock V
Mar 2014 (I) – THE SONS OF FRED (Part 1); Tribute to Mick Farren
Mar 2014 (II) – THE SONS OF FRED (Part 2); Tribute to Mick Farren
Apr 2014HOMER; Creating New Bands out of Old Ones
May 2014THE SOUL AGENTS; The Cream Family Tree
Jun 2014THE RICHMOND SLUTS and BIG MIDNIGHT; Band Names (Changes) III
Jul 2014MIKKI; Rock and Religion I (Early CCM Music)
Aug 2014THE HOLY GHOST RECEPTION COMMITTEE #9; Rock and Religion II (Bob Dylan)
Sep 2014NICK FREUND; Rock and Religion III (The Beatles)
Oct 2014MOTOCHRIST; Rock and Religion IV
Dec 2014THE SILENCERS; Surf Rock II
Jan 2015 (I) – THE CRAWDADDYS (Part 1); Tribute to Kim Fowley
Jan 2015 (II) – THE CRAWDADDYS (Part 2); Tribute to Kim Fowley
Feb 2015BRIAN OLIVE; Songwriting I (Country Music)
Mar 2015PHIL GAMMAGE; Songwriting II (Woody Guthrie/Bob Dylan)
Apr 2015 (I) – BLACK RUSSIAN (Part 1); Songwriting III (Partnerships)
Apr 2015 (II) – BLACK RUSSIAN (Part 2); Songwriting III (Partnerships)
May 2015MAL RYDER and THE PRIMITIVES; Songwriting IV (Rolling Stones)
Jun 2015HAYMARKET SQUARE; Songwriting V (Beatles)
Jul 2015THE HUMAN ZOO; Songwriting VI (Psychedelic Rock)
Aug 2015CRYSTAL MANSIONMartin Winfree’s Record Cleaning Guide
Dec 2015AMANDA JONES; So Many Rock Bands
Mar 2016THE LOVEMASTERS; Fun Rock Music
Jun 2016THE GYNECOLOGISTS; Offensive Rock Music Lyrics
Sep 2016LIGHTNING STRIKE; Rap and Hip Hop
Dec 2016THE IGUANAS; Iggy and the Stooges; Proto-Punk Rock
Mar 2017THE LAZY COWGIRLS; Iggy and the Stooges; First Wave Punk Rock
Jun 2017THE LOONS; Punk Revival and Other New Bands
Sep 2017THE TELL-TALE HEARTS; Bootleg Albums
Dec 2017SS-20; The Iguana Chronicles
(Year 10 Review)

Last edited: April 7, 2021