Friday, February 9, 2018

Arthur Alexander (1940 - 1993)

Arthur Alexander was born in 1940, in Florence, Alabama. He grew up in nearby Sheffield, Alabama. Arthur’s father played slide guitar in juke joints and encouraged him to take an early interest in music. He joined a local gospel group called the Heartstrings in 1953. After high school, he worked as a bellhop and became friendly with Tom Stafford, an R&B-obsessed white kid who fancied himself a lyricist. Arthur started adding melodies to his words. Together they blended into a like-minded crowd of fledgling musicians. Arthur co-wrote "She Wanna Rock," with Henry Lee Bennett which became a hit for country singer Arnie Derksen in 1960.

Alexander released his first single 'Sally Sue Brown' written and produced with Tom Stafford, under the name of June Alexander ('June' is an abbreviation for 'Junior') on the Judd Records label. Bob Dylan later covered 'Sally Sue Brown' on his 1988 LP, 'Down In The Groove'.

In 1962 Arthur signed for Dot Records and released 'You Better Move On' b/w 'A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues' in Muscle Shoals (a former tobacco warehouse turned recording studio). The song became a soul/ R&B classic and was later recorded by the Rolling Stones.

More hits followed with ‘Anna (Go to Him)’ (covered by the Beatles), ‘Soldier of Love, (covered by Pearl Jam), "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues", (covered by Gerry and the Pacemakers), "Where Have You Been" recorded live at the Star Club, in Hamburg, 1962 by the Beatles , and "Set Me Free."

Failure to constantly be in the Top Hundred however meant Dot terminated his contract in early 1965. Despite his songs being recorded by many others he could not find commercial success as a solo artist. He changed record labels (Sound Stage 7 1965 – 1972; Warner Brothers 1972 – 1975; Buddah Records 1975 – 1977; and the Music Mill) but to no avail. He did briefly appear in the charts with "Every Day I have to Cry" in 1975 but the follow up single "Sharing The Night Together, " was less successful than the cover version by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show in 1978.

Disillusioned with the industry and incapacitate by a debilitating illness he dropped out and moved back to Alabama. He re-joined the church and started working with young people. In 1978 he moved to Cleveland and by 1981 he became a bus driver for Cleveland’s Center for Human Services. His talents were not forgotten and after he appeared at New York’s Bottom Line in 1991, the artist agreed to go back to the recording studio. He released the album Lonely Just Like Me in 1993 to great critical acclaim.

Arthur signed a new recording/publishing contract and had performed with his new band, but tragically suffered a fatal heart attack and died in 1993. Without doubt he was one of the more influential Soul/R&B artists yet despite his repeated success in the charts and many of his original compositions being covered by other artists, Alexander remained underpaid for his music. Arthur Alexander combined the influences of country and soul and was an inspiration to many including, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Worth a listen
You Better Move On (1961)
A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues (1961)
Anna (Go to him) (1962)
Every Day I Have To Cry Some (1975)
Everybody Needs Someone To Love (1975)