Philadelphia Soul Rarities.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this collection of independent productions from the Philadelphia legend Weldon Arthur McDougal III.
The idea for this compilation came from a retracing of some of the musical steps in the development of the Philly sound with Weldon as my guide in the summer of 2007. What transpired and what became my personal mission was to assist Weldon -who has given so much to the city and to others- with an opportunity as a kindred musical spirit to bring his contribution and his personal musical journey to a wider audience.
Weldon holds a unique and enduring place in Philadelphia’s musical heritage. Up until only relatively recently acknowledged for his work as part of the Dynodynamic production team at Harthon records, this collection showcases his production work over the last 4O years writing, producing, and arranging records as his career and love for musical expression have grown and found new avenues and outlets. These soul portraits were created out of opportunism, ambition and a strong desire to bring music to life as well as life to his music.
Being a successful promotion man brought Weldon into contact with many aspiring and fledgling artists looking to be guided and given the creative room to develop their musical talents. Recorded in Philadelphia in its heyday as one of the architects of the Philly sound the collection follows his work from 1965 to the present where he helped shape Philly soul working throughout the 60’s,70’s throughout the 80’s to date-fostering the talent of so many. What comes across in these tracks are not just wonderful vocals but when combined with an array of talented musicians help define what is so captivating about Philadelphia soul.
Many of the tracks here are new to CD and are seeing the light of day for the first time. Ranging from the early Sigma tracks including for the first time his essential work with his protégés Universal Love the collection tells the story of a unique individual and talent at work.
When coming up with the idea of this project I asked Weldon what his approach had been to creating his music. His response was- as always -honest and direct-‘I always tried to put feeling in my music and to allow the artists to work instinctively with the songs as they develop’.
As the first proper CD retrospective of his work I am sure many will now recognise, appreciate and come to love the Philadelphia soul of Weldon A McDougal III.
This CD contains music of the highest quality featuring tracks Weldon produced in Philly during the halycon days of that city's recording history in the late 60's and early 70's plus a few recent recordings. Weldon has put the project together with Andrew Demetriades and is an important addition to the musical heritage of Philly demonstrating the talent which the city has produced over the years.
Weldon McDougal III is the best thing to happen to the Philadelphia Sound, Im so glad you heard his music he is underrated.
Andy Whitmore said...
We met up with Weldon last year,what a talented gentleman,can not wait to here Weldons new album,
When you hear this CD, your ears are going to give your head a PARTY (smile)ENJOY
Weldon A. Mc Dougal III
stories behind the tracks
1 No more beautiful days-Jimmy Randolph
We begin the collection with a beautiful, haunting track and for me a true Philly gem. Recorded in the heyday of early Sigma sound studios the track features the rich baritone voice of Jimmy Randolph who was picked up on by Weldon when doing his promotional work at Motown. With backing vocals arranged by Weldon’s long time friend and Thom bell collaborator Linda Creed it features both the trademark rhythm section of Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker and Earl Young and backed unusually by Linda Creed singing as well as the Sweethearts of soul. Linda very rarely sang on tracks but as you can hear- had a wonderful harmonious voice. Linda used to call Weldon ‘the washboard’ from his days in Lansdowne as a lifeguard at the local swimming pool!
Often Weldon would never push his productions too hard, as he didn’t want to be seen promoting his own records and competing with the Motown or Philly sounds he promoted at the time. This situation accounts for why many of his tracks never emerged on 45’s. However, this one proves that you don’t have to reach chart success to produce a timeless classic.
2 All that I want -Jimmy Randolph
Introduced to Weldon via Barney Ales, Weldon boss who was spearheading promotions at Motown, Jimmy was a singer from New York who went on to become Weldon’s good friend and a huge Broadway star in Guys and Dolls in 1976. With a more downbeat feel with a great chanting intro, the song- again with Linda and the sweethearts doing the backing vocals- this was a different Philly sound at the time. Weldon was commissioned by Barney Ales’s dentist to do both songs who apparently wasn’t too enamoured with the result expecting a Motown sound and not Philly styled songs! Although a southern sounding soul version exists of the track it pales beside this great Philly production from Weldon.
3 Mama He treat your daughter mean-Barbara Cole
Barbara was sent to Philly by nightclub owner Maimi to record with Weldon. Barbara who was originally from St Louis recorded three tracks with Weldon in the late 1970’s A funky Rhythm and blues work out of an original Ruth Brown track on Atlantic backed for the first time by bassist Jimmy Williams and drummer Keith Benson. When Maimi died the tapes for these sessions were lost for nearly ten years only to be picked later by Weldon from the Sigma sound.
4 Take me tonight-Barbara Mason
Weldon first worked with Barbara producing the era-defining Philadelphia soul track of Yes I’m ready in 1965. In 1977 Weldon was approached by Barbara to again take the producing chair producing a full album of songs from which this standout track is taken and was the b-side to "I Am Your Woman She Is Your Wife"-the album title. Using the Cromulizer -a state of the art electronic instrument- played by Salvatore Gallina at the time it helps propel this Philly number along which oozes seduction! The album is backed by members of Universal love and features background singers Jean Thomas, Tina Nichols and Pat Veney.
5&6 L.O.V.E Love/ What’s This Hoodoo Voodoo - Dahlia
Weldon first met Dahlia when she was a neighbourhood college student who happened to look in on Weldon when the Jackson 5 was visiting his place on a stop off from accompanying them on tour. Several years later after studying music at college she approached Weldon and what resulted was an infectious set of early 80’s boogie flavoured soul tracks which they created together
Produced in 1982 by Weldon, he was marketing director at Philly World records who were recorded at Alpha international records in Philadelphia. Dahlia eventually went her own way but there collaboration produced two excellent tracks which will put a spell on you.
7 We Gonna rock this place-Universal Love
Universal love track brings the house down with an unreleased track from the same sessions. Weldon recalls how tight the band was musically and how they developed the tracks together in the studio. Universal love are pictured with Weldon when they were appearing at the Leviticus club in New York incidentally on the same bill as Barbara Mason and Lou Gordon. Weldon is still in touch with Dennis Rogers and hopes to get the band back together
8 Its you girl- Dennis Rodgers & Universal Love
‘Its you girl’ was the b-side and for many has become a Philly anthem on the modern soul scene with its great melody and uplifting vocals from Dennis.
9 Moonride-Dennis Rodgers & Universal Love
An incredibly talented group of young musicians- Universal Love were Weldon’s band and what became his record labels namesake in future years.
In many ways the creative highpoint of his work in the late 1970,s working closely with co-songwriter, lead singer and guitarist Dennis Rogers these tracks hold a special place in is producing career and were laid down in 1976. Originally from Trenton, New Jersey the band had backed the group Love Committee on the road and also on Weldon’s inspired single ‘Darling come back home’ in 1975. Weldon had been given Love Committee to produce by Norman Harris at the time and linked up with Universal Love who were an established band. The resulting 12-inch track first appeared on TK records after Weldon impressed Henry Stone who released the track.
Moonride has all the classic ingredients of the time with a kicking bass, whistles, chants and Weldon’s signature cuica. It has become a cult track in disco circles. Bassist Tony Jordan helped arrange the track and it appears for the first time newly mastered on CD. If you listen carefully you can hear Weldon encourage band members to cook!! as they laid the track down. If you can’t stand the heat then Moon ride….
10&11 Rain / Lies-Sharon Paige
Appearing first on the Northern soul scene in the late 1970’s mistakenly as Gwen Owens these tracks were the first Sharon recorded with her band with Weldon in Philadelphia before she found success with Harold Melvin and the Blue notes. Weldon’s father knew Sharon’s Mom very well and encouraged her to listen to her with her group. We can now rightly acknowledge that it was Weldon who first discovered the great talent that Sharon had waiting to explode onto the scene at the time.
Weldon recorded two of Sharon’s greatest performances and captured the raw but great soul in her voice. Sadly whilst Weldon had sealed a deal with Clarence Avant of Sussex records to put out the recordings Sharon was lured to go with Harold Melvin and the Blue notes and found success on PIR. The tracks gained release on limited edition vinyl after the Weldon was approached by a UK fan who visited his house, picked up the Box with Gwen Owens on it which held the acetate and released a number of copies on a label called Mel-ady which found popularity.
12 Keep on believing-Unknown artist
Weldon remembers a guy coming into the studio with his bartender representative wanting him to produce the male vocalist. Whilst not remembering his name what transpired was a great Philly recording urging us to keeping the faith. Its is backed with a great wah-wah guitar and high backing vocals from some backing girls from New Jersey. Never released it has a great live feel and Weldon thinks it may have been recorded in the Harthon days. Answers on a postcard please…!
13 Loving you is an everyday thing-Joe Shamwell
Weldon, I met Joe, I was working at Motown in the mid-late1960’s and became good friends. Before Linking up with Stax records and becoming a prolific songwriter Joe asked Weldon to produce him and he brought Joe to Philadelphia recording two sides and he co-wrote a number of tracks recorded by Weldon’s group the Larks in 1968. Loving you is a wonderful breezy Philly track with great strings and it appeared on the b-side to ‘Can’t give up on a good thing’ Joe died in 2006 after a long DJ and song writing career. Joe shamwell worked as a radio DJ working out of Mississippi on on WKOJ/Jackson Mississippi where he worked through the mid 1970’s and into the 1980’s also having a period at Malaco records.
14 Unbelievable-The Larks
Recorded for the second time around at Cameo-Parkway studios before it closed Weldon renews his first hit track originally cut in 1961 with a more soulful vocal from Vivian who this time sings lead backed by the classic larks line up of Bill oxendine, Calvin Nichols and of course Weldon. Incidentally Weldon recalls cutting and then losing them to someone who sadly headed off with the tapes at the time a number of larks covers of Motown songs. Guess the Harthon die-hards are having seizures as we speak.
15 Why can’t you be nice to me- The 3 P’s?
The three P’s- Paul, Paris and Phil were backing singers looking to get a break in the business. Persisting in trying to get Weldon to record them what resulted was a soulful Philly classic very much sounding like Teddy Pendergrass at the time. The track was originally recorded by Gerri Grainger although like this track remained unreleased until now. Paul-the lead singer eventually went on to do some work with Stevie wonder in Los Angeles who was spotted by Stevie when recording at Sigma. A truly outstanding track with Weldon clearly providing the bass vocal response on backing
16 Brazilian Rock- Weldon A McDougal III
Weldon’s love of Brazilian samba music stems from his trips to Brazil when as Head of special projects at PIR he accompanied Harold Melvin and later his long-time friends Archie Bell with the Drells on their tours. Weldon was given a Cuica -a Brazilian friction drum- whilst out there and it became his trademark instrument on many of his tracks accentuating the rhymn of his songs.
On Brazilian Rock Weldon plays out his love of Brazilian music combined with an irresistible 80’s Philly groove which was produced with the Brazilian party crowd in mind-why it never took on remains a mystery. With Universal love and Bobby Eli on hand to make the track really swing it has an infectious rhyme that you cant help but rock to. The song has Dahlia and Rhonda Bird on backing vocals.
17 You know I know-Weldon A McDougal III
Bringing us right up-to-date this track recorded in late 2007 Weldon brings his own funky almost rapping vocals to bear on a great old school R&B type track. The track has a dirty bass from Jimmy Williams, Keith Benson on drums and screaming sax from Ellliot Lavin
It shows that Weldon still has his touch and ability to turn out a fresh and original old school type record. At 71 the man breathes new fire into music that many others could only dream of creating if they were 50 years younger. I know many will enjoy the track.
18 Sweet memories-Lou Gordon
We close with what can only be described as one of the most evocative and till now great unknown ballad to come out of Philadelphia recorded in its golden period circa 1974. From the opening octaves of Norman Harris’s guitar and Jack Faiths flute you are taken down Weldon’s memory lane. Almost creating the song as they went along in the studio and being fortuitously helped by Barbara Mason who turned up at Sigma sound along with Weldon provides the backing vocals. Recalling in many ways the story of how Weldon came together with his wife Cleopatra -they remember how they met when Weldon was singing on the street corner with his teenage group The Larks. With a wonderful improvised heartfelt vocal from Lou Gordon of all the records this one holds a special place as making him the most happy to finally put the track out.
Lou Gordon was in fact the brother of the immortal Doo wop singer Sonny Gordon who sang with the Angels and whose mother used to play organ with Philadelphia gospel legend Clara Ward. Weldon hung out with Lou in West Philly and always said that he would record Lou if he had the opportunity. In the words of Weldon-‘this ones gonna take you out!’