SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER – Soul Singles of 1963

The History section of Celebrate Good Times is a real celebration of the very best soul and reggae albums and singles released between 1950 and 1975 and offers some historical perspective on what came after. In previous blogs we have looked at the Top 100 soul singles of 1962, the Top 100 soul albums of 1974 and the Top 100 reggae singles of 1975. This week’s blog presents itself as another flashback – this time to the jukebox delights of 1963. After extensive research eliminating the not-so-good tunes, the also-rans and the duff tracks, the following list contains what I consider to be the very best r&b tunes of that year.

Comprising a broad mixture of vocal groups, instrumental acts, male and female soloists, duos and jazz artists, the selection is a carefully considered pick of the cream of the crop. As before, the records listed all received a UK release. There were well over a couple of hundred 45s released in the UK that year – primarily on the Stateside and London labels which licensed the majority of American pop and soul records in the UK at the time. This has made these labels highly collectable today. Selling at approximately 6/-8d (six shillings and eightpence in old sterling, the equivalent of 33 ½  pence today) you could get three singles for a £1 note (20 shillings). Therefore, you could reasonably expect to have bought the entire Top 100 for just over £33. For a bit of interest, I researched the current values on the 100 records listed. The total was an astonishing £3545! These tunes would probably fetch more at auction – so these tunes are definitely records worth their weight in gold. Fortunately, many are available as 7” reissues and on compilations. Of course, lots are available in digital format to download as well. So no need to rob that bank just yet.

Whereas in the previous year there had definitely been a proliferation of dance-craze tunes, 1963 saw the rise of the girl-groups and the introduction of jazz into the soul mix. Of the 100 tracks listed, only 15 made it to the UK pop charts of the time – and of those, only 5 reached the Top 10.

The Detroit record label Motown had its releases issued on Oriole and then Stateside during 1963. A dozen of the best have been selected for inclusion in the ’63 soulfest – including records by The Miracles, Little Stevie Wonder, Martha & The Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Eddie Holland, Mary Wells and The Marvelettes. Not one of them made it into the national charts – but that was all set to change during the following year when Motown had its first No.1 pop single in the UK.

Girl-groups had been around since the Fifties – sometimes they were sister acts but usually they were just a group of teenage friends looking to make music. There were literally thousands of girl-groups recording at the time – most of which were never released in the UK. Of those that were, I have picked some great records by the likes of The Percells, The Tiaras, The Charmettes, The Girlfriends, The Shirelles, The Hearts, The Chantels, The Sherrys and The Four Pennies (actually The Chiffons). The Novas were actually called The Avons in the US but their name was changed for the UK release of their song Push A Little Harder to avoid confusion with the British duo of the same name. The advent of Phil Spector’s ‘Wall Of Sound’ records on his Philles label saw the launch of hits by The Ronettes, The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and Darlene Love – all of whom have records in the list. The Ronettes’ Be My Baby is simply one of the most glorious records ever made – whilst The Crystals’ Da Doo Ron Ron and Then He Kissed Me (reaching No’s 5 and 2 respectively) were pure pop perfection. These, alongside all the other Spector hits listed were written (or co-written with Spector) by the Brill Building husband-and-wife team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who have written some of the most enduring songs of all time.

Speaking of Brill Building husband-and-wife teams, the success of Carole King and hubby Gerry Goffin continued into 1963 – with two of their songs included in the Top 25. One Fine Day by The Chiffons was a huge American hit and was a follow-up to their No.1 smash He’s So Fine. I first heard Goffin & King’s Hey Girl by Freddie Scott on one of those Cruisin’ albums released in the 70s which all featured an American radio-show from 1955 to 1970. The particular LP I had was Cruisin’ 63 and featured disc-jockey B. Mitchell Reed from WMCA, New York. I used to play that track to death. I later picked up an American compilation double-album (‘as seen on TV!’) called American Pop Classics which included the track. In the early Eighties, I went with a very good friend of mine to visit his neighbour who had an extensive collection of early 60s 45s – with the intention of borrowing some to tape record for my cassette player. He had a copy of Freddie Scott’s record. I asked him if he was willing to sell it but he said he wasn’t really up for selling any of his records. Anyway, I picked a bunch of 45s to record – and later, the man said I could have Hey Girl as a present as I loved it so much! For me, this was a dream come true – and has proved to be one of the greatest and most-played additions to my record ‘selection’. The song is perfection but it is Freddie’s so soulful performance and the stirring vocal and instrumental arrangement that make it such a special sound. Both Isaac Hayes and George Benson later recorded their takes on the song. Another K&G song in the selection is The Cookies’ Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby which is probably their best record.

Apart from Freddie Scott, other male vocalists are represented by Rufus Thomas, Billy Stewart, Johnny Nash, Otis Redding, James Brown, Jerry Butler, Chuck Jackson, Sam Cooke, Percy Mayfield (re-cutting one of his 50s hits), Brook Benton, Big Dee Irwin (duetting with an uncredited Little Eva), Jimmy Soul (a US No.1), Jackie Wilson (the joyous Baby Workout), Solomon Burke, Mel Carter, Little Johnny Taylor (never to be confused with Johnnie Taylor) and Lenny Welch with his gorgeous Since I Fell For You (later a big song on the reggae scene). Ray Charles was on the charts for 20 weeks with his version of Hank Williams’ Take These Chains From My Heart (reaching No.5). Adam Wade released Don’t Let Me Cross Over to little acclaim – but the B-side song Rain From The Skies (written by Burt Bacharach & Hal David) later became something of a reggae classic when recorded by Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown and others. Ben E. King’s I (Who Have Nothing) was covered successfully by Shirley Bassey in the UK – resulting, as was so often the case, in a big fat flop for the original. Likewise, Major Lance lost out to Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders (Um,Um,Um,Um,Um,Um), The Exciters to Manfred Mann (Do Wah Diddy Diddy), Dionne Warwick to Cilla Black (Anyone Who Had A Heart), Betty Everett to The Swingin’ Blue Jeans (You’re No Good), Baby Washington to Julie Grant (That’s How Heartaches Are Made) and Doris Troy to The Hollies (Just One Look).

There are a considerable number of wonderful female singers in the list – including Barbara Lewis with her classic Hello Stranger (later covered in the 70s by Yvonne Elliman and soon afterwards by lovers-rock trio Brown Sugar) and Straighten Up Your Heart. Her great version of Joe Henderson’s Snap Your Fingers (which made the ’62 list) just missed the cut. Maxine Brown’s Ask Me is brilliant too. Gloria Lynne’s divine rendition of I Wish You Love was a family staple at parties down the years – it remains for me, a personal favourite. Another jazzy inclusion is Dinah Washington’s delightful version of Romance In The Dark. As a jazz singer, Dinah definitely had soul.

Ruby & The Romantics were one of the best vocal groups to emerge in 1963 – scoring a massive No.1 hit in the States with Our Day Will Come. Their re-titled Hey There Lonely Boy later became a smash for Eddie Holman in the late Sixties. Other great group records include Shake A Tail Feather (by The Five Du-Tones), Misery (by The Dynamics), the fantastic Killer Joe (by Latino group The Rocky Fellers), the US chart-topping So Much In Love (by The Tymes), On Broadway and I’ll Take You Home (both by The Drifters), It’s All Right (by The Impressions) and a pre-Stax Staple Singers with the infectious Hammer And Nails.

Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle was a dance-craze tune that initially failed to spark any interest in the UK  but charted when reissued some six years later, when it reached No.7 on the pop charts in 1969. Inez Foxx’s Mockingbird (originally issued with an uncredited Charlie) was another one that was revived in 1969 to become a chart hit.

A special mention must go to the record at No.2. The Jaynetts’ Sally Go ‘Round The Roses is a dreamy, ethereal, hypnotic record which (like Freddie Scott) I’d first heard on the Cruisin’ 63 album. To me, it is the personification of the girl-group sound – whilst at the same time being totally unlike any girl-group record you’ve ever heard. It was one of the very first releases to have an instrumental version of the song on the B-side that you could sing along to. Their Christmas record Snowman, Snowman, Sweet Potato Nose which utilised exactly the same backing track was just a cash-in.

Instrumentals this time around include Mongo Santamaria’s great version of Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man – this version was soon produced in a vocalese version by Jon Hendricks. Herbie himself is featured on Blind Man, Blind Man. Ray Barretto’s US latin smash El Watusi is present and correct, as are similarly groovacious instrumentals by Brother Jack McDuff, Booker T. & The MGs, Jimmy McGriff and Don & Dewey.

As before, for the sake of space, original catalogue numbers and US label details have been omitted from the list. The first 25 are very much in descending order – the remaining 75 in no particular one.

1. HEY GIRL | Freddie Scott | Colpix

2. SALLY GO ‘ROUND THE ROSES | The Jaynetts | Stateside

3. SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER | The Five Du-Tones | Stateside

4. CAN I GET A WITNESS | Marvin Gaye |Stateside

5. BE MY BABY | The Ronettes | London                                      

6. DON’T SAY NOTHIN’ BAD ABOUT MY BABY | The Cookies | London

7. SINCE I FELL FOR YOU | Lenny Welch | London

8. DO WAH DIDDY DIDDY | The Exciters | United Artists

9. HELLO STRANGER | Barbara Lewis | London

10. HARLEM SHUFFLE | Bob & Earl | Sue                                  

11. ONE FINE DAY | The Chiffons | Stateside                              

12. ANYONE WHO HAD A HEART | Dionne Warwick | Pye International      

13. SO MUCH IN LOVE | The Tymes | Cameo Parkway              

14. YOU’RE NO GOOD | Betty Everett | Stateside

15. I WISH YOU LOVE | Gloria Lynne | London

16. UM, UM, UM, UM, UM, UM | Major Lance | Columbia         

17. HEAT WAVE | Martha & The Vandellas | Stateside

18. OUR DAY WILL COME | Ruby & The Romantics | London  

19. THAT’S HOW HEARTACHES ARE MADE | Baby Washington | Sue

20. KILLER JOE | The Rocky Fellers | Stateside

21. ON BROADWAY | The Drifters | London

22. CRY BABY | Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters | United Artists

23. REACH OUT FOR ME/MAGIC POTION | Lou Johnson | London

24. JUST ONE LOOK | Doris Troy | London

25. FINGERTIPS PT. 2 | Little Stevie Wonder | Oriole

The rest of the best…the best of the rest.

IT’S ALL RIGHT | The Impressions | His Master’s Voice

FOOLISH LITTLE GIRL | The Shirelles | Stateside                       

MOCKINGBIRD | Inez & Charlie Foxx | Sue                               

EL WATUSI | Ray Barretto | Columbia

BABY WORKOUT | Jackie Wilson | Coral

I (WHO HAVE NOTHING) | Ben E. King | London

THE NITTY GRITTY | Shirley Ellis |London

MY BLOCK | The Four Pennies | Stateside

DO THE BIRD | Dee Dee Sharp | Cameo Parkway                        

DA DOO RON RON | The Crystals | London                                

SWINGING ON A STAR | Big Dee Irwin | Colpix                        

I’M GONNA FORGET YOU | The Tiaras | Warner Bros.

LOCKING UP MY HEART/FOREVER | The Marvelettes | Oriole

TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE | Brook Benton | Mercury

PLEASE DON’T KISS ME AGAIN | The Charmettes | London

WATERMELON MAN | Mongo Santamaria | Riverside

QUICKSAND | Martha & The Vandellas | Stateside

HAMMER AND NAILS | The Staple Singers | Riverside

MY ONE AND ONLY, JIMMY BOY | The Girlfriends | Colpix

RIVER’S INVITATION | Percy Mayfield | His Master’a Voice

ALL ABOUT MY GIRL | Jimmy McGriff | Sue

PRIDE AND JOY | Marvin Gaye | Oriole

IF YOU WANNA BE HAPPY | Jimmy Soul | Stateside                


MICKEY’S MONKEY | The Miracles | Oriole

HE’S GOT THE POWER | The Exciters | United Artists

HEY THERE LONELY BOY | Ruby & The Romantics | London

CAN’T NOBODY LOVE YOU | Solomon Burke | London

HE’S SO FINE | The Chiffons | Stateside

WALKING THE DOG | Rufus Thomas | London

CRY TO ME | Betty Harris | London

MAKE THE MUSIC PLAY | Dionne Warwick | Stateside

WHY DO LOVERS BREAK EACH OTHER’S HEARTS | Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans | London


PAIN IN MY HEART | Otis Redding | London

BLIND MAN, BLIND MAN | Herbie Hancock | Blue Note

MISERY | The Dynamics | London

SOUL MOTION | Don & Dewey | Cameo Parkway

WAIT TILL MY BOBBY GETS HOME | Darlene Love | London

PART TIME LOVE | Little Johnny Taylor | Vocalion

IF YOU NEED ME | Solomon Burke | London

DEAR ABBY | The Hearts | Stateside

WHEN A BOY FALLS IN LOVE | Mel Carter | Pye International

THEN HE KISSED ME | The Crystals | London                            

WHAT ARE BOYS MADE OF | The Percells | His Master’s Voice

ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT | Sam Cooke | RCA                  

TAKE THESE CHAINS FROM MY HEART | Ray Charles | His Master’s Voice

COME AND GET THESE MEMORIES | Martha & The Vandellas | Oriole

LAND OF 1000 DANCES | Chris Kenner | Sue

IT’S TOO LATE | Wilson Pickett | Liberty

PUSHOVER | Etta James | Pye International


SANCTIFIED SAMBA | Brother Jack McDuff | Stateside

THE MONKEY TIME | Major Lance | Columbia

PRISONER OF LOVE | James Brown | London

PREACHERMAN | Charlie Russo | Stateside

ROMANCE IN THE DARK | Dinah Washington | Columbia

NEED TO BELONG | Jerry Butler | Stateside

ASK ME | Maxine Brown | Stateside

YOUNG WINGS CAN FLY | Ruby & The Romantics | London

THE MAN IN YOU | The Miracles | Stateside

THIS EMPTY PLACE/WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’ | Dionne Warwick | Stateside

CHINESE CHECKERS | Booker T. & The MGs | London

IF IT’S LOVE (IT’S ALRIGHT) | Eddie Holland | Oriole

ETERNALLY | The Chantels | Capitol

TELL HIM I’M NOT HOME | Chuck Jackson | Stateside

STRAIGHTEN UP YOUR HEART | Barbara Lewis | London

I’LL TAKE YOU HOME | The Drifters | London                          

I’M MOVIN’ ON | Johnny Nash | Warner Bros.


WILD! | Dee Dee Sharp | Cameo Parkway

STRANGE FEELING | Billy Stewart | Pye International

HOW CAN I FORGET | Ben E. King | London

SLOP TIME | The Sherrys | London



Any stand-out records for you? Please feel free to leave comments below.

3 Replies to “SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER – Soul Singles of 1963”

  1. Snoops, omg, so many life-long faves here, i absolutely love this period when soul music is just coming to life, growing out of RnB, pop, doowop, jazz, blues into its own very special thing. Tracks like the Baby Washington, Barbara Lewis, Garnett Mimms and yep, Freddie Scott just so moving and powerful.

  2. Yes Pete, that early 60s period is just magical isn’t it? Very few of the doowop groups managed to make a successful transition into more soulful styles – exceptions were groups like Little Anthony & The Imperials and The Dells. In 1963, groups like The Marcels were still making doowoppy kinda tunes that must have seemed out-of-date even then! The Baby Washington tune is a real gem. I was reminded of the Randy Crawford version just today on one of the FB music forums – that’s a nice version though quite different. That Garnet Mimms track is brilliant also, a real favourite of mine. And of course, he was still funking in the 70s with his one-off WHAT IT IS. Thanks for your reply JB – it is so interesting for me to read other’s opinions and thoughts!

  3. I love the music of the early Sixties because it was fresh and new. There hasn’t been music like it since. It was of its time. It’s a pukka pukka list with lots of my favourite records. One of the best is Ray Barretto’s ‘El Watusi’ because I heard that for the first time when I went on holiday to Cuba back in the 90s – it set the mood for the holiday. My other favourites are The Supremes which my sister used to play all the time when we were young. It was on the Greatest Hits LP. I have the original US Tuff ’45 by The Jaynetts – I love that too.The Rocky Fellers ‘Killer Joe’ is a real killer track, the coolest of them all. ‘Hey Girl’ deserves to be at No.1 – it’s both happy and sad and also it’s got a really lovely melody and is a very well written song which I never get tired of playing. It’s one of those songs that goes around my head all day. Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Watermelon Man’ is a great choice. ‘Can I Get A Witness’ by Marvin Gaye is a record which grabs you right from the start. What I would call a real music killer. It’s another song I never get fed up of hearing. I could dance all day to that one. The original version of ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ is much better than the Manfred Mann version – the Exciters version is exciting! Amy Winehouse did a nice cover of ‘Our Day Will Come’ but the Ruby & The Romantics version is still the one for me.

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