THE WINSTONS; Color Him Father (Soul Jazz Records/Sounds of the Universe)
Mixed race group, THE WINSTONS are one of popular music’s best known “one hit wonders”! That “one hit” was of course the ever lovely ‘Color Him Father’ (we’re using the US spelling!). However, it’s that hit single’s B side that has secured the Winstons a place in the music history books.
Before we get to that, however, maybe a little history. Originally hailing from Washington DC, the sextet was made up musicians who had (variously) played with people like Otis Redding and the Impressions. In 1968 the Impressions link won them a contract with Curtom Records but their stomping ‘Need A Replacement’ single had little impact. So in 1969 they signed to Metromedia Records where they recorded the sweet and sentimental, Impressions-flavoured ‘Color Him Father’. The song’s naïve sentimentality must have touched a nerve. It quickly became a million seller – hitting no. 1 R&B and no. 7 on the US pop 100. Oh, it also won the Grammy for Best R&B song of the year! The follow up, a cover of the John Hurley song ‘Love of the Common People’ was a moderate top 100 hit (54) but keen to cash in on the popularity of ‘Color Him Father’ Metromedia rushed out a Winstons’ album named for their iconic hit. However, the label had difficulties promoting the album and the group soon folded citing difficulties in touring the southern US due to their inter-racial line-up, and their sole album seemed to sink into obscurity.
Fast forward 20 years and hip-hop producers seeking new beats and inspirations discovered the B side to ‘Color Him Father’ – a Curtis Mayfield-inspired, funky instrumental, ‘Amen Brother’. One minute, 25 seconds in there’s a punchy drum break courtesy of ex Otis Redding skinsman G C Coleman (who later worked with Brick) and the early hip-hop samplers found it perfect for their needs! It’s been calculated that the break has been used over 5,000 times most famously by Mantronix, DJ Shadow, Eric B and Rakim and Jay Z. It’s use created a demand for the original single and the parent album and the demand has hardly ceased even though the vinyl LP has been of print for 50 years!
Step in Soul-Jazz/Sounds of the Universe who are all set to reissue the ‘Color Him Father’ album on vinyl on 22nd February. In truth the album is a fairly workmanlike 60s soul album! It’s the kind of thing dozens of soul artists released back then – a long player that focuses on the hits and padded out with covers and a few throwaway items. The covers on the Winstons’ album include versions of Sly’s ‘Everyday People’, Joe Simon’s ‘Chokin Kind’ and Jerry Butler’s ‘Only The Strong Survive’. The group turn in decent performances as they do on original songs like ‘The Days Of Sand And Shovels’ – a sort of hybrid of ‘Little Green Apples’ and ‘Honey’. The reissue offers four bonus tracks including ‘Mama’s Song’ and ‘Say Goodbye To Daddy’ where the reference points are obvious. ‘Color Him Father’ and ‘Amen Brother’ are the obvious standouts, of course!
This Soul-Jazz/Sounds of the Universe reissue is fully remastered and housed in an exact-reproduction original sleeve and design and comes with those aforementioned 4 extra tracks that the group released only as singles. There is also a very special one-off first pressing only of this album that comes with an exclusive one-sided 12” of ‘Amen Brother’ featuring a specially extended break mix of the classic tune. There will also be a limited edition seven-inch of ‘Color Him Father’ and ‘Amen Brother’ – all bound to sell out fast.
By the way, collectors might like to know that several versions of the Winstons continued long after the demise of the original group. In 2002 one set of “Winstons” released ‘My Father’ – a sequel to ‘Color’ while in 2009 there was a bizarre Winstons’ recording of ‘I’ll Aways Love Obama’. Both worth a listen but neither could match the simple magic of the original ‘Color Him Father’ – little wonder it’s favourite with thousands of soul fans including someone called Paul Weller!