Most proper soul fans will know DON GARDNER via his wonderful 1962 duet with Dee Dee Ford, ‘I Need Your Lovin”. The mesmeric mix of old school R&B and embryonic soul forced its way into the top 20 back in 1962 and though future success eluded the Philadelphian drummer and vocalist he continued to record right through the 60s and Germany’s Tramp Records have just issued a dynamic 22 tracker that collects the best of that output.
Born in 1931, Don Gardner began singing in church but his first love was the drums and in the early 50s he formed his first band – The Three Bachelors, later renamed The Sonotones. Don played drums, Albert Cass played sax, Thornel Schwartz was guitarist and a young man called Jimmy Smith played organ! (Smith by the way was eventually replaced by Richard “Groove” Holmes).
Signed to Bobby Robinson’s Fire label, he hit pay dirt as co-vocalist with Dee Dee Ford on the aforementioned ‘I Need You Lovin”. Two more years with the label were relatively barren so Gardner and band mates decamped to Sweden, cutting two live albums. On his return to the US he released numerous singles on a variety of labels and it’s the best of those singles and some of those live tracks that form the core of this album.
Sonically, the sound is rough, raw and intoxicating. Several of the cuts are instrumentals and include versions of ‘Watermelon Man’ and ‘Take Five’ while some of the vocal cuts (like a fabulous, live, in your-face version of ‘Heatwave’) feature a female vocalist. The Gardner-penned cuts are tremendous too and include ‘I Really Love You’ an unashamed attempt to recreate the magic of his big hit.
Interestingly Don Gardner quit music in 1970 to become a builder – he helped remodel Curtis Mayfield’s house, we’re told, but in the 80s he got back into music and today is President of the Philadelphia Clef Club Of Jazz.
THE STORY OF DON GARDNER will be released on Tramp records on September 15th. There will be a CD version and a deluxe vinyl version –the first 400 copies of which come with a bonus 7″ single… find out more @ www.tramprecords.com