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 Be” appears 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 1968Elvis 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


(July 2014)


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Items:    Mikki 


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December 2013 – LES HELL ON HEELS1990’s-2000’s punk rock band 


January 2014 – BOYSKOUT2000’s punk rock band


February 2014 – LIQUID FAERIES1980’s alternative/world music rock band


March 2014 –  THE SONS OF FRED1960’s British R&B band


April 2014 – HOMER1970’s progressive rock band


May 2014 – THE SOUL AGENTS1960’s British R&B band 


June 2014 – THE RICHMOND SLUTS and BIG MIDNIGHT2000’s garage revival rock bands 


July 2014 – MIKKI1970’s R&B/soul singer


August 2014 – THE HOLY GHOST RECEPTION COMMITTEE #91960’s psychedelic rock band


September 2014 – NICK FREUND, 1960’s psychedelic rock artist


October 2014 – MÖTOCHRIST1990’s-2000’s punk rock band  


November 2014 – WENDY BAGWELL AND THE SUNLITERS1960’s-1990’s gospel/comedy group


(Year 5 Review)


Last edited: April 8, 2021