Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post documents how a brief portion of the African American Gospel Quartet "The Harmonizing Four"'s 1957 song "I Love To Call His Name" uses the same note for note phrasing as R&B singer Clarence "Frogman" Henry sung in his 1956 song "Ain't Got No Home".
The Addendum to this post provides information about Clarence "Frogman" Henry and information about The Harmonizing Four.
The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
My thanks to the featured singers and the composers of these songs. Special thanks to David Whiteis for pointing this song pattern out to me via three emails (July 6th-9th, 2017).
Here are excerpts from David Whiteis' emails to me:
July 6, 2017
..."I've thought of another spiritual/gospel lyric image that has filtered into the blues vernacular -- I'm sure you've heard the many blues songs/routines in which the singer signifies at various people in the audience --"See that man all dressed in red, woman gonna go upside his head" . . . "See that woman dressed in green, biggest booty I ever seen," etc. (The late Chick Willis used that idiom in his well-known ""Stoop Down Baby," and he elaborated on it quite a bit in live performance.) That, of course, derives from the old "Who's that yonder, dressed in red / Looks like the children Moses led . . . Who's that yonder, dressed in black / looks like the mourner just got back . . . Who's that yonder, dressed in blue / Looks like His children just came through . . ." song cycle.*
There's also a song by the Harmonizing Four -- and now I can't remember which one it is, but if you'd like I can try to find it -- in which at one point they sing a wordless phrase that Clarence "Frogman" Henry reprised note-for-note in his trademark "Ain't Got No Home" in 1956. Coincidence? Maybe -- but if you hear the two songs side-by-side it's difficult to imagine that Henry wasn't aware of where that riff came from."...
July 7, 2017
..."Here's the Harmonizing Four song -- listen to the pattern that the lead singer (not their famous bass vocalist Jimmy Jones, but a later member) sings at about 0:33 seconds into the song . . .
[I Love To Call His Name]
. . . and then compare it to what the Frogman does at 0:45, and then again at 1:18 (in falsetto!) and at 2:09.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBsHyMwpIjo [Ain't Got No Home]**
Coincidence? Probably . . . but I think about it every time I hear either one of these songs.
HOWVER: I just realized something. "Ain't Got No Home" was recorded in 1956; the Harmonizing Four didn't sign on with Vee-Jay (the label on which this song was recorded) until 1957. So if anything, this time maybe the gospel singers borrowed the riff from the R&B singer!
Pancocojams Editor's Notes
*The lyrics "Who's that yonder, dressed in red / Looks like the children Moses led" are found in versions of the African American Spirituals "Go Tell It On The Mountain" & "Wade In The Water" and probably other Spirituals.
**The links given in the July 7, 2017 email led to YouTube home page. These links were corrected in David Whiteis' July 9, 2017 email to me.
SHOWCASE YOUTUBE SOUND FILES
Pancocojams Editor's Note:
Since the showcased Rhythm & Blues song was recorded before the showcased Gospel Quartet song, I've presented its sound file first.
Example #1: Clarence Henry - Ain't got no home - 1956 (Frogman)
MicMacDeJay, Published on Mar 26, 2010
Example #2: I Love To Call His Name - The Harmonizing Four And God Will Take Care Of You
Pannellctp Traditional Gospel Music, Published on Jul 31, 2012
Information about Clarence "Frogman" Henry
"Clarence Henry II (born March 19, 1937), known as Clarence "Frogman" Henry, is an American rhythm and blues singer and pianist, best known for his hits "Ain't Got No Home" (1956) and "But I Do"" (1961).
Clarence Henry was born in New Orleans in 1937, moving to the Algiers neighborhood in 1948. He started learning piano as a child, with Fats Domino and Professor Longhair being his main influences. When Henry played in talent shows, he dressed like Longhair and wore a wig with braids on both sides. He joined Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers in 1952, playing piano and trombone, before leaving when he graduated in 1955 to join saxophonist Eddie Smith's band.
He used his trademark croak to improvise the song "Ain't Got No Home" one night in 1955. Chess Records' A&R man Paul Gayten heard the song, and had Henry record it in Cosimo Matassa's studio in September 1956. Initially promoted by local DJ Poppa Stoppa, the song eventually rose to number 3 on the national R&B chart and number 20 on the US pop chart. The gimmick earned Henry his nickname of 'Frogman' and jump-started a career that endures to this day.
He toured nationally with a six-piece band until 1958, and continued to record. A cover of Bobby Charles' hit "(I Don't Know Why) But I Do", and "You Always Hurt the One You Love", both from 1961, were his other big hits.
Henry opened eighteen concerts for the Beatles across the US and Canada in 1964, but his main source of income came from the Bourbon Street strip in New Orleans, where he played for nineteen years. His name could still draw hordes of tourists long after his hit-making days had ended. He still plays at various conventions, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival."...
Information about The Harmonizing Four
"The Harmonizing Four was an American black gospel quartet organized in 1927 and reaching peak popularity during the decades immediately following World War II.
Sources disagree as to the original membership when the group was established in 1927 to sing for school functions at Richmond, Virginia's Dunbar Elementary School. Some sources include Thomas Johnson and Levi Hansly as founding members, with others indicating they joined the group in the early 1930s after the departure of original first tenor Joe Curby and original bass Willie Peyton; likewise, eventual leader Joseph Williams is identified as a founding member in some sources, and others claiming he joined as much as six years later. In 1937 the group added Lonnie Smith, who later became father to keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith.
The group recorded for Decca Records in 1943 and toured in the postwar years, performing at such high-profile events as the 1944 National Baptist Convention, to an audience of 40,000; the funeral ceremony for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945; and the wedding ceremony of gospel star Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Russell Morrison, an event recorded for a live album to which the group contributed four songs. During this period the group recorded for different labels, including Chicago company Religious Recording, Coleman, and MGM. As of the early 1950s, they signed with Philadelphia's Gotham Records, where they recorded some 40 songs before moving on in 1957 to Chicago's Vee-Jay Records, where they experienced their greatest popularity. Smith retired in 1962, and following a period in the late 1960s of recording for various labels in various membership configurations, the group was essentially semi-retired for the ensuing decades.
The Harmonizing Four began singing on WRNL, in Richmond, in 1943, soon after recording eight songs for Decca in New York City. Described as "the area's top quartet," the group "would have Sunday breakfast with Richmond for nearly two decades, sponsored by People's Furniture.""
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