Tuesday, 4 January 2011

NS544 The Belles [1966] - Don't Pretend [Mirwood]

b/w: Words Can't Explain
Format: 45
Label: Mirwood
Cat No: 5505
Year: 1966
Value: £?

This is archetypal Northern Soul.  If anyone wanted to know what Northern Soul sounded like then this would be the template.  Even though Mirwood was based in Hollywood, LA, California, this sound could have easily been mistaken for Detroit.

Having said that though it is hardly surprising because even though in 1966 the official line-up was Sherlie Matthews, Debra Dion, Rose Mary Bailey, Patricia McElroy, apparently the recording of the track was undertaken by Matthews along with Brenda & Patrice Holloway (Josie & The Pussycats) both of course Detroit artists alledgedly signed under fake names as Brenda was already signed to Motown.  It was re-issued (bootlegged?) on Simon Soussan's 'Soul Fox' label to meet demand in the 70s.

It was also issued in the U.K. on Blues & Soul's Contemporaries label, which was for re-issues.

It was their only 'official' release on Mirwood, Another track entitled 'Let Me Do It' surfaced and was released as The Belles by Simon Soussan on Soul Fox, however it was original titled 'I Wanna Do Everything For You Baby' and was unreleased until 1990 CD on Goldmine in UK.

The following article was copied from The Soul Guy website.  I would have linked to it but it is no longer online.

Multiple Gold Record Producer And Singer-Songwriter Sherlie Matthews
In Conversation With Rob Jones

Sherlie Matthews started performing as a soloist in church at the age of two. At age four, she began harmonizing, singing alto parts in vocal duets with her 2 year old sister. Sherlie's grandmother, who was an accomplished musician/composer, recognized their musical talents and was Sherlie's first piano/voice teacher and mentor. She provided piano accompaniment for Sherlie and her sister for many, many years at various local venues, tea parties, weddings, church services, concerts, etc. From her early nurturing Sherlie continued to develop natural abilities for all phases of the performing arts, through school, college, community and professional workshops.

Sherlie's acting career began in elementary school plays, where she was encouraged by teachers to pursue drama as a vocation. While attending Jefferson High School, she starred in several drama productions, was a principal soloist with the school choir and participated in student leadership and athletics while maintaining scholarship excellence. Sherlie continued this same pattern throughout her Los Angeles City College years through Graduation from UCLA.

At the age of 10 yrs Sherlie began setting bible verses to music to help children learn bible texts and has written and arranged over 500 songs, both secular and sacred, three children's musical-comedies, two movie themes, and several commercials, along with innumerable vocal arrangements. Many of her works are currently being performed internationally on recordings, television, internet, radio, and in churches and schools.

After earning a living for several years as a Medical Social Worker, Sherlie embarked on an illustrious career in the music industry, barely reflected by her abundant resume. Writing, singing and producing for Mirwood Records, Sherlie created most of their early hits for artists: Jackie Lee, The Olympics, Bobby Garrett, The Mirettes, The Belles and Bob & Earl.
Frank Wilson, an intimate friend, who was a producer/writer with Motown Records, enhanced Sherlie's professional career when he introduced her to that record company in December,1964. Soon thereafter, she was signed as a singer/songwriter/producer.

Sherlie performed onstage with Diana Ross and Lionel Richie and the Commodores and wrote and produced recordings for: The Jackson Five, The Supremes, Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye, Martha & The Vandellas, The Four Tops, The Blackerries (Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Me), The Celebration and Stacie Johnson. She also collaborated with former boyfriend, songwriter/producer, Deke Richards, on many of the above projects.

Sherlie Matthews' voice has become a familiar sound as a result of her work in voice-overs, commercials and as backup for many popular recording artists. Several of the songs you might be familiar with are "Stayin' Alive" with the BeeGees, "With A Little Help From My Friends" with Joe Cocker, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" with Stevie Wonder, "Touch Me In The Morning," with Diana Ross, The "Aja" album with Steely Dan, "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)" and "I Been Workin' On You" with The Doobie Brothers, "The Bitch Is Back" with Elton John and "Sweet Home Alabama" with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Sherlie lived and worked in Australia from 1984 through 1988. While there, she worked with Venetta Fields and Chong Lim in three groups,'Yu En,' 'Venetta's Taxi,' and 'The Gospel Jubilee.' During this time, she formed and recorded an 8-member group of children called, BABE. Currently, two members of that group are, Danielle de Niese, an acclaimed opera star (now residing in America) and Murray Golding, a successful Australian singer/model. She toured that country as a background singer with pop star Tim Finn," also 'Skunk' Baxter and "My Old School" band. Sherlie also shared the stage with her co-singers, Tony Faeshe and Robert Price, in the group, The Hi Tones.

Returning to the USA, when her family's situation demanded her full time help, Sherlie completed a three year course at UCLA, earning a degree in Computer Graphics/Animation and has just finished directing, writing and arranging songs for a children's choir, "Out Of The Mouth Of Babes." Currently, she is sole producer, singer and arranger on her just released CD "We Come As One" which she describes as '10 sacred songs gone bad.'

With her sister Sherlie wrote and produced eleven sacred songs for the CD, "A Fuzzy Ball Of Fur" featuring a children's choir, A Band Of Angels.

Sherlie Matthews wrote, arranged and produced a selection of sacred originals for the female octet The Circle Of Love. This harmonious group performs both a'cappella and to accompanied music.

How did you first get involved with the Mirwood label?

My friend, the arranger, James Carmichael introduced me to the label. He was working for them at the time. I started as a background singer and advanced to writing and producing.

Do you have any particulary fond memories of your time there?

I was so naive at the time...all of my experiences were fond. It wasn't until afterward that I discovered that I had been, and still am being, cheated out of royalties. That aside, working with Bob & Earl and the Holloway sisters were the happiest of times. I love singing and creating music, so that atmosphere was very pleasant.

You wrote many songs for various Mirwood artists including Anything You Want, Any Way You Want It (Jackie Lee) You're Everything (Jackie Lee) The Neighborhood (Jackie Lee) Baby Do The Philly Dog (The Olympics) We Go Together (Pretty Baby) (The Olympics) Same Old Thing (The Olympics) Mine Exclusively (The Olympics)  Don't Pretend (The Belles) Cupid's Got A Hold On Me (The Belles) Words Can't Explain (The Belles) I Wanna Do Everything For You Baby (The Belles) He's Alright With Me (The Mirettes) Now That I've Found You Baby (The Mirettes) Keep It Coming (Bobby Garrett) I Can't Get Away (Bobby Garrett) Big Brother (Bobby Garrett) My Little Girl (Bobby Garrett/Sherlie Matthews) Oh My Darlin' (Jackie Lee) The Shotgun And The Duck( Jackie Lee) Your Personality (Jackie Lee) - do you recall what your inspirations were for any of these songs and where they were actually written?

"Baby Do The Philly Dog" and "The Shotgun And The Duck" were written precisely for dance tunes. "Your Personality" was a concept/novelty tune. The rest of my songs were based upon my own true life experiences.

For some time now, I've been curious about an old photograph I saw of Bill Cosby at the Mirwood studio - did he have any involvement in any recording sessions?

Bill Cosby was a friend of Fred Smith's at the time. Delores Hall and I sang background on his one and only vocal solo album. Other than that, he had no involvement in any of the recording sessions that I worked on.

There is conflicting information regarding the original members of the Belles, with whom you recorded - some sources list the band members as Sherlie Matthews, Debra Dion, Rose Mary Bailey and Patricia McElroy, while others say Sherlie Matthews, Brenda and Patrice Holloway. Could you tell us which line-up sang what?

Sherlie Matthews, Brenda and Patrice Holloway were the original Belles. Because of contractual conflicts their names could not be used.

Were there any other Belles recordings which never made it to release?

Probably, but you'd have to contact Charlie Cronander, Fred Smith's widow to get an answer to that question. We sang on so many Mirwood Recordings...it's hard to keep track.

Do you have any particular favorites among your Mirwood compositions?

"Oh My Darlin" "Baby Do The Philly Dog" "My Little Girl" "Big Brother" (recorded by Bobby Garrett) "Cupid's Got A Hold On Me" and "Same Old Thing"

Could you tell us the story of My Sugar Baby - there still seems to be some confusion as to whether or not the release that surfaced back in 1975 is an authentic Sherlie Matthews recording.
This is my original song and my original recording, however the sound has been sped up...the background voices are me and the Holloways. In that unnatural register it was hard to recognize my own voice. However, after our interview I listened to a version of the original on a CD that Venetta Fields sent to me years ago and yes, that is my voice singing the lead.

After leaving Mirwood, you were introduced to the Motown Record Company by Frank Wilson, what were your experiences like there?

Unbelievable! I sang background with my group, the blackberries, whom I named after Berry Gordy. We not only recorded an album which was never released, but we sang background for every West Coast recording artist for the label. I also wrote songs for and produced albums for The Jackson Five, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Four Tops, Lionel Richie And The Commodores and many others. I also toured and performed onstage with Diana Ross and also with Lionel Richie.

Which have been your most memorable stage performances and why?

TV series regular singer with The Red Skelton Show. The weekly series was fast moving, we had to learn several songs for each show then perform them during the weekly telecast. It was a lot of hard work, but fun. I enjoyed this series more than the many stage performances with vocal artists.

Which artists have you most enjoyed working with?

Red Skelton, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolage, Linda Ronstadt, Burt Bacharach, Joe Cocker, Lena Horne, Paul McCartney & Wings, Ella Fitzgerald, Chicago, Steely Dan, Seals And Croft. In Australia, Hi Tones, Tim Finn, Jeff (Skunk) Baxter And My Old School and Venetta's Taxi.

Could you describe a day in the life of Sherlie Matthews?

I awake between 4am and 7am, drink lot of fresh water, fresh orange juice, stretch then go out for a brisk mile walk, return and feed my dog, eat a large breakfast (I'm vegetarian, so breakfast is the largest meal of the day), go to my computer, answer emails, check my websites, embark upon my daily schedule which on any given day may consist of rehearsals, meetings and recordings. I always find time to write the latest installment of a novel that I've almost completed.I get into my music, write, arrange, record or listen to the latest song that I'm working on. In my spare time...usually when I'm bored with my daily grind, I also make movies of favorite pictures from the net and synchronize them to music for my own enjoyment. Every morning and evening I spend time reading. I usually fall into bed between 11pm and 2am.

Could you tell us about A Band Of Angels and Circle Of Love

Click here for A Band Of Angels: http://cdbaby.com/cd/abandofangels Likewise, for The Circle Of Love, click here: http://cdbaby.com/cd/circleoflove and here: http://sherliematthews.com/music.html

Do you have any plans to return to the UK?

Absolutely, yes. I also have plans to perform with my new Gospel group in Italy, Australia, Sweden, Japan and China so far...

You have a new solo CD set for release soon, is there anything you can tell us about this at the moment?

My new solo CD, "We Come As One" (10 sacred songs gone bad) has just been released. My cover label features a comically drawn self-portrait. I'm offering the public, raw renditions of 10 original sacred songs. I call it "the worst CD you've ever heard," because the sing-worthy songs were recorded over the years in my home studios, with obvious flaws. CDBaby is handling the distribution. http://cdbaby.com/cd/wecomeasone (this website will be functioning in a few days - CDBaby is setting up.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This came out on president,with words can't explain on the b side