By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
I’m trying hard to track down the full Lou Courtney story, and the information I can’t find is this- what did he do in Buffalo? Before he got signed and did his first recording he must have done something in the field of music, and he must have done something good to get noticed and offered a record deal. So far no mention of him has turned up as far as local performances or membership in a group. Between the time he was born (1944, in Buffalo) and his first recordings for Imperial – either 1962 or 1963, and apparently in New York City – there is absolutely no info available, period.
I hope to have something by next week. So this is kind of a fill-in post this week, but beyond the info I hope to uncover maybe someone will come forward with some knowledge. I need to know, because we need to make the case for his induction into the Buffalo Music Hall Of Fame. He had a 15-year career with some fantastic soul and funk 45s for at least four major labels, and three chart hits – yet info is surprisingly scanty. What little there is comes mainly from across the Atlantic. He’s pretty much unhonored in his home country, much less his home town.
Another interesting facet to Lou is that early on (when still quite young) he was as much a songwriter as a soul singer. And by the mid-1960s he had added ‘producer’ to his resume. Many of his behind the scenes efforts stretched outside of the Soul and R&B fields into the Pop and Rock field. He wrote or cowrote songs for British Invasion artists like Freddie & the Dreamers and the Nashville Teens and pop singers like , Leslie Gore. On the Soul side his songs were recorded by Mary Wells, Gloria Gaynor, Henry Lumpkin, Lorraine Ellison and Dee Dee Warwick. He wrote AND produced three of the Webs records – for Popside and Verve – and I have the feeling he discovered that group and brought them to Popside.
Maybe the most important credit to Lou is that his mid-1960s records for Riverside and it’s subsidiary Popside are among the first Soul records to have Funk elements. He’s certainly there right alongside James Brown at the birth of The Funk.
October 1967 saw the release of the record that’s highly regarded by both the Funk / Soul crowd and the sampler/ beatdigger/ mixoloist crowd. ‘Hey Joyce’ starts off on the right foot with a funky drum break which was later famously sampled by DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist and appears on a seminal Brainfreeze breaks record.
All the while Lou continued working in a variety of styles from Deep Soul to mainstream soul to ballads, alongside the funk. The last thing I can find on him is work as a backup singer on a mid-70s session with Bonnie Raitt, although the UK magazine New Music Express reports that on rare occasions he has come out of retirement to perform one-off live shows.
More next week!