Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunny 45 Back Cover text A SATISFIED MIND

Back Cover

Bobby Hebb is the 24-year-old singer and songwriter that recently made the entire nation sit up and take notice when his recording of "Sunny" became the Number 1 hit of the nation. It shouldn't have surprised anyone, because Bobby Hebb is going to be one of the big names in the music business in the years ahead . . . both as singer and songwriter. To date, Bobby has written about 3,000 songs, 1,000 of which have been published. He is likewise a sincerely dedicated performer, a serious interpreter of every song he does. "Sunny" displayed Bobby Hebb as an interpreter of his own work. Here, he turns to a couple of other songs and shows that he can turn in truly inventive interpretations •ho-ever the composer may be. Bobby Hebb is a name that's been very much in musical news lately. It undoubtedly will be for a long time to come.
PHS 600.212

FROM So Many Records So Little Time blog






If "Sunny" had been the only hit for Bobby Hebb, and that was quite nearly the case, it would be enough. One of the most popular compositions of all time, there were hundreds of versions recorded by artists around the globe in the '60s with many more materializing in the years since. But there was more to Bobby, who was 28 when his original version became a million seller, than meets the eye; at that point he had already spent 25 years in show business. Born Robert Von Hebb in 1938 into a music-obsessed family (his parents, both multi-instrumentalists, performed on the streets of Nashville in the '30s as Hebb's Kitchen Cabinet Orchestra), he and Harold (Hal) Hebb, his older brother by six years, worked together as a song-and-dance act starting in 1941 when Bobby was three, appearing at theaters and clubs in the Nashville area.

In 1951 Bobby caught the eye of longtime Nashville producer Owen Bradley, who got him an audition with Grand Ole Opry regular Roy Acuff. The 12-year-old found himself in a unique position when Acuff, impressed by the youngster's varied talents, took him under his wing, hiring the energetic child as an Opry regular. He performed with Acuff and his Smokey Mountain Boys, playing spoons, tap dancing and doing occasional backing vocals. For an African-American of any age it was an unheard-of situation. In 1955, not yet 18, Bobby joined the U.S. Navy and made the rounds for the next couple of years as a trumpeter with a Navy band that played in many foreign ports. At about this time Hal Hebb joined The Marigolds, led by Johnny Bragg (former leader of The Prisonaires and a repeat inmate, through the years, at the Tennessee State Penitentiary); the group had a hit with "Rollin' Stone" on the Nashville-based Excello label in the spring of '55.
Bobby played guitar in addition to the trumpet, a combination that kept him working steadily after his discharge from the Navy; he played on sessions for Excello and other labels. In 1959 he recorded a rousing, rhythmic version of "Night Train to Memphis" (written by Beasley Smith, Marvin Hughes and Owen Bradley, the song was first released on Okeh by his mentor Acuff in 1942). It became his first of two singles for former Nashville disc jockey John Richbourg's New York-based Rich Records. Bobby moved to New York City and spent a couple of years at the Blue Morocco Club opening for Mickey and Sylvia and other acts. During this time he wrote and recorded a down-home southern soul song, "Atlanta G.A.," which appeared on the FM label in 1961.

When Mickey Baker moved to France around 1962, he and Sylvia Robinson put their career together on hold. During this time she did a recording with Hebb of his song "You Broke My Heart and I Broke Your Jaw" as Bobby and Sylvia for Battle Records; the easygoing arrangement contradicts the song's curiously violent lyrics. His manager, Buster Newman, got him in the door at Mercury Records and one single, "Just a Little Bit More," came out on the company's Smash subsidiary. Tragedy struck the following year when, shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Hal was killed in a Nashville street fight. Bobby Hebb didn't make any recordings for some time, instead immersing himself in songwriting as a way to deal with his depression brought on by these unconnected, but devastating, deaths. During this time he composed the brightly optimistic "Sunny."



Bobby Hebb was a one-hit wonder, and like so many of these guys, after making a splash, he spent a few years floating around aimlessly before sinking to the bottom, dismissed as merely a "fluke." There was a 35 year drought (1970-2005) where the Hebb-cat wasn't on black vinyl at all, with only the "Sunny" side up and available on compilations. "Sunny" was also his ticket to various memorabilia shows and oldies festivals where all he had to do was sing his hit and hope the fee covered a little more than just the travel expenses and hotel.

Every obit on Bobby Hebb steals the basics from the same sources, so you probably know his parents were blind, he and his Nashville-born brother Harold formed a tap-dancing act, and that when they went their separate ways, Bobby turned up in Roy Acuff's band while his brother joined The Prisonaires…made up of other jail birds. Harold did get out of prison and into a real group, The Marigolds, but was never far from danger. And so it was, that in 1963, (coincidentally a day after the JFK assassination, and also Boris Karloff's birthday), he ended up knifed to death, but not before firing a fatal shot into the guy who'd mortally wounded him.

Bobby had begun his recording career by then, replacing Mickey Baker (in "Mickey and Sylvia" of "Love is Strange" fame). As "Bobby and Sylvia," they recorded what is now regarded as a cult item, the cringeworthy "You Broke My Heart and I Broke Your Jaw," which has the same cheery feel as Dave Clark 5's "I Like it Like That." This was the era of the Spector-produced Crystals tune"He hit me, and it felt like a kiss," music by Carole King, lyrics by Gerry Goffin. Even so, the soulful duo are alarmingly garrulous as they swap barbs and seem to suggest that in the ghetto, violence is no big deal. Back then, Bobby's song was a mere Hebbaroid on the giant butt of indie R&B singles. Now the single on Bill Grauer's Battle label, can fetch some decent bucks on eBay. Grauer did a lot better back then with full-sized jazz albums via his main company, Riverside.

In 1966, Hebb's melding of R&B, Nashville and pop, yielded a smash hit with "Sunny." Though it was covered by every annoying finger-snapping singer hitting the TV variety shows of the day, he managed to lay down the definitive version. He just couldn't lay down another hit single to cement his identity with the music-loving public. "A Satisfied Mind" was modestly successful in 1966, and a Hebb-penned song "A Natural Man" was a hit for Lou Rawls in 1971, a year after Hebb's album career sputtered to a seeming end with "Love Games" on Epic. In 2005, the indie label Tuition offered a new album which was aimed mostly at Hebb's following in Japan, where he often toured. He's still best loved for "Sunny," which is, even if you want to dismiss it as mawkish pop, quite an achievement as a piece that melds various music styles together, and in it's major and minor key chorus and verse, captures notes of both blues pessimism and pop optimism.

You get a half-dozen Heb-caps here, five cuts from the tail end of his prime in 1970 (This Bird Has Flown, I've Learned to Love, Grin and Bear It, I'll Be Anything and Good Morning World) and a halfway decent copy of the obscure "You Broke My Heart and I Broke Your Jaw."

Help Yourself to Hebb tracks 


Sunny The Song on Twitter 

Bobby Hebb's Twitter 

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