45 Friday: WOODY ROBINSON – I’ll Never Let You Go

45-Friday_4
By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon

Here’s another one about which I know almost nothing. Please please please tell me something, somebody!

Monticello Records was a short-lived Buffalo record label with maybe a half-dozen releases. It’s a difficult one to track because each of the singles has a different label design and a different address, if it has an address. I’d guess this Woody Robinson record is an early release, and the 42 Monticello Avenue address gave the label its name. All other Monticello records seem to be Gospel but this one has a great R&B Rocker on the flipside of a late-period vocal group ballad.

Monticello #7232 has been dated to 1962 by the pressing plant markings, which means both sides were already pretty old-fashioned in the fast-changing early 1960s. The A-side “Please Be Mine All Mine” is very reminiscent (if not based on) Jerry Butler’s “For Your Precious Love”, recorded with the Impressions. That was a huge hit but in 1958; in 1962 the big news was Motown, the Beach Boys and the Twist; the Beatles were already recording with George Martin; and this stuff was passe as far as chart success. But due to the classic timeless Black Vocal Group sound it fits exactly into what the R&B Ballad collectors of today look for.

By the way, the few references I found for this record credit it to Woody Robinson & Group.

The flip is a spiffy Rocking number though equally dated. Especially the guitar sound – it really sounds like it’s from a decade earlier. But there’s a good reason: the label credits the Skeeter Best Orchestra and Skeeter is undoubtedly the guitarist.

 


Clifton ‘Skeeter’ Best was a jazz guitarist who made his name with Earl “Fatha” Hines’s orchestra before enlisting in the service for WWII. After the war he played with Bill Johnson and Oscar Pettiford before forming his own trio in the 1950s. He’s probably best known for the his prominent work on the 1957 Soul Brothers jazz session with Ray Charles and Milt Jackson. He continued to record with jazz artists, some singers who crossed over from jazz slightly into R&B, and into pop music with Harry Belafonte; but no R&R or modern R&B as far as I can tell. Later in his life he taught in New York City before passing away in 1985.

Skeeter’s only other connection with Buffalo which I can find is that he again worked with Earl Hines, recording with him immediately after Hines recorded his 1976 Improv album at Buffalo’s Statler Hilton. I wasn’t able to find any evidence Skeeter hung around Buffalo so details on the Skeeter Best Orchestra which will have to remain a mystery for now. I’m guessing it may just be an expanded version of Skeeter’s trio. For what it’s worth, he co-wrote the A-side with Woody.

In any case, the guitar work on “I’ll Never Let You Go” is great, but it’s the work of a hot player schooled in Charlie Christian, more jazzy than the Pop R&B music of the time. Perfect for the earlier 1950s, but by 1962 nobody wanted to hear T-Bone Walker licks.

So… who is Woody Robinson? I know nothing. But his Buffalo credentials are secure, right from the first line of “I’ll Never Let You”: ‘I got a little girl, she lives in Buffalo….’

 

 

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